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Cycling & Sightseeing in Paris

by bromptoning

It’s be a year since we were in Paris! So, you know, time to do a blog post…

Arriving in Paris, Gare du Nord.

Cycling in Paris was a bit jarring after The Netherlands and Belgium. It’s definitely a city where we felt safer with our helmets on! Though Paris has big plans for becoming a cycle-friendly city, and it has indeed added bike lanes and car-free routes, getting around Paris on two wheels still involves “swimming with the sharks” so to speak. The perfect example of this is Place de la Concorde, a huge, chaotic roundabout where there are no lines denoting lanes, and bicycles have to merge in with motor vehicle traffic.

Traffic in Place de la Concorde.

Despite the chaos, we did feel as if Parisian drivers saw us and had good reaction skills (unlike in our hometown where I’ve lost count of how many drivers claim they didn’t see me despite my bright jacket and reflectors). Though if you’re not comfortable cycling in fast-moving car traffic, you can always take a folding bike on the Metro! An alternative is to use Paris’s Velib bike rental system in conjunction with transit. We saw a lot of people (mainly locals) riding these in bike lanes, but didn’t see as many biking in areas without cycling infrastructure.

That said, we are from Toronto — cycling in crazy traffic is not new to us. So we donned our helmets and headed out to explore Paris…

Notre Dame, Paris

Notre Dame

Le Pompidou, Paris

Le Pompidou

Place de Pont Neuf, Paris

Nowhere to lock our bikes on Place de Pont Neuf.

Le Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, France

Le Jardin des Tuileries

Though there were “no cycling” signs at many of the parks, including Le Jardin des Tuileries (pictured above), there were people cycling along the paths, so we followed their lead, riding at a leisurely pace. I think that’s the trick; as long as you’re not racing through the parks, no one will stop you from cycling. The exception to this? Père Lachaise cemetery; we were told by the security guard that no bikes were allowed, even if we walked them.

Parc des Rives de Seine

When I was last in Paris well over a decade ago, the road running alongside the Seine was for motor vehicles. Now, it’s for pedestrians and cyclists!

Heather on Point Louis Philippe with the Parc des Rives de Seine in the background.

And there’s a tunnel! Though not very picturesque, it’s cool to bike through a tunnel that was designed for cars only and see nothing but cyclists and joggers!

Car Free(ish) Day Paris

We happened to be in Paris on its third annual car-free day! Though traffic was greatly reduced, it wasn’t exactly car free, since there are quite a few exceptions and it looked like people were taking advantage of that. Still, there were some genuine car-free moments we managed to capture on that rainy afternoon:

Night Riding

For some of Paris’s sights, like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, we opted to leave our Bromptons in the hotel room and walk or take transit rather than leave our bikes parked outside. But at night when the sights were closed, we explored the city by Brompton…

Final Thoughts

We visited Paris in the fall, which is sometimes a lovely time for travel, and sometimes not. We encountered a lot of rain during our few days in Paris, which was less than ideal. I’d like to go back when it’s warmer, and perhaps explore the cycle routes outside of the île-de-France. Downtown Paris is still better for walking than cycling, not just because of a lack of bike lanes but because of the rough cobblestoned streets and crowds of people. However, Paris is promising to add tons of bike lanes in the next decade, and we’re excited to see how that transforms the city.

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