How to Use Paris’ Vélib' Bicycles
Vélib' is designed for one-way, city rental: grab a bike, go somewhere, and turn in your steed for someone else to use. When you are ready to move on, pick up a new one.
The price structure of the rentals encourages this:
- Free for the first 30 minutes,
1€ for the next 30 minutes,
2€ for the next 30 minutes (after the first hour),
4€ per additional 30-minute increment (after 90 minutes).
You may have as many rentals as you please in a day, and each starts with the 30-minute free period.
Where Do I Find Bikes?
Everywhere! Stations are located all over town, every few blocks, and marked on all public city maps with a purple “V”.
In our neighborhood, Vélib' stations are shown on this map. Click on any station to see a real time view of available bikes (vélos disponibles) and empty stable points available for returns (points d’attache disponibles).
The station in green, on the rue Française, is the closest to our building. Follow rue Tiquetonne for a short block, and turn left on rue Française. The bikes are a short block away. For returns, the station on the rue St.-Denis, just before the crossing with rue Réumur, is particularly good (and there is another right around the corner on rue Greneta, so it is also well backed up should it be full).
If you wish to see the stations in another part of town, you can zoom in on any place in Paris from this page.
Have an i.phone? Download the free “Vélib'"app, which allows you to visualize available bikes and return points from your phone. We don’t link to it because country-specific versions exist, in several languages.
How do I Claim One?
- Pick a bike attached to a stable point with a green light.
Red-lit stable points with bikes at them correspond to out-of-service bikes, awaiting maintenance. Bikes with their saddles turned backwards have been identified as defective by fellow users, but may work for short journeys in an emergency.
- Test the bike.
Make sure both tires are pumped up, that the seat is / can be firmly attached, and that the chain is on. Per above: if the saddle is turned backwards, a prior user has identified the bike as being defective.
- Swipe your Vélib' swipe card over the point d’attache (stable point) of the bicycle you have selected.
The light on the stable point will go yellow for a second, then flash green, and the bike will automatically unlock. You now have one minute to wheel the bike away from it’s stable point before it automatically re-locks. This requires a bit of physical effort: do not be afraid to jiggle / pull hard.
And off you go!
How Do I Return a Bike?
- Find a station which offers an empty stable point with a green light.
If the station you arrive at is full, you can figure out where the nearest open station is, and get a free quarter hour added to your rental to allow you to get there. Swipe your card over the reader on the station’s central information post, and enter your code (2-5-8-3, the word “Blue” on a telephone keypad). From the menu which appears, choose the information menu (number 4). Then select number 5, “Stations voisines et vélos disponibles.” A map will appear, telling you which of the neighboring stations have available stable points, and how many. Should your new target station fill while you travel there, repeat the operation to get another free 15 minutes and a new map.
- Push the bike into the stable point.
This can be a bit tough: you have to line up the metal “tongue” on the bike with the slot on the stable point. When you succeed, you will hear a satisfying “chunk” and an audible tone. After a moment, the light will go solid green again, telling you that you have successfully returned the cycle. Verify that this happens: it is very important. If it does not happen, pull the cycle back out, and try again.
You are now ready for your next rental.
If you can’t get a bike with your card, these are the common reasons, and what to do about them.
- Your card is running a balance. The balance needs to be paid before the card can be used again.
We send each card out with at least 10€ credit on it. Since rentals of under 30 minutes, typically the majority, are free, this is enough for most users. We charge you for the sum of your paid rentals (if any) when you return the card.
However, if you intend to (or have) made especially intensive use of the system, frequently surpassing the 30-minute free period, stop in to the office, call, or send us an e.mail, and ask us to reload the card. We will put however much you wish us to on the card, but we advise you not to overload it: we only refund half of any sum loaded at your request beyond 10€.
- You failed to properly return your last cycle.
If the system has not recorded the return of your last cycle, it will not give you a new one. This is big trouble, and may cost you 150€. Call us for help, or call 01 30 79 79 30 if your French is good enough, and ask for advice.
- You lost your card, or it was stolen.
Call / e.mail us for help, or call 01 30 79 79 30 if your French is good enough, and get your account blocked (you must know the name on the card you are using to do this). A replacement card will be sent. A 20€ charge will apply, but rental costs for the card will cease on the business day following the day on which you inform us of the loss / theft. And, if we have one in stock, we can give you an alternate card without waiting for the one you were using to be replaced.