Salut les Bike Commuters! Mir.I.Am is fresh off the jet from France and ready to report on the lovely life on two wheels from the City of Light – Paris. I just spent several weeks in France (oui, oui, depending on your point of view, cue a “scowl of disgust” or “sigh of extreme jealousy,” dear readers). Ever since investigating the bike share options in Paris and Bordeaux last year, I’ve been anxious to see Paris from a bike’s eye view.
Two Girls – one with a Backache. My Parisienne friend was incapable of taking the Metro around the city. Thanks to a chronic back injury, she was on intense medication with doctor’s orders claiming no standing on her feet for more than two minutes at a time. Walking was out of the question and the Velib bikes near her house were always checked out, since she lives on the top of a hill. Lucky for us, the two bikes in her garage were the perfect option for two girls touring around the City of Light! We packed up our locks, bags, and water for the road, and set off for a day of errands and sight-seeing rolled into one!
Two M’s: Marion & Mir.I.Am. Just like Task Force Chicago, we played follow the leader, with Marion as the leader and me the tourist sheep on two wheels. It’s so stress free to follow a seasoned local bike commuter when you’re brain is in vacation mode, no need to tape maps to handlebars or plan out routes! A bike commuting tip from Marion: make sure to loop part of your bag over your handlebars if your bag is in the front basket since bags are easily snatched at red lights or while biking through slow traffic in Paris.
An atypical bike commute for me, I was without helmet (don’t judge), blessed with a slow-leaking back tire, riding a single speed (by default due to broken cables), with a busted built-in generator headlight, but hey – Le Super bike was $free.99 with legit street cred. I mean, look at the thing! I climbed aboard with enthusiasm and a smile, as we pedaled through Paris running errands with plenty of scenic architecture along the way like the Paris Opera.
Strangely enough, I noticed that bike lanes and routes were often in the opposite direction of traffic on One-Way streets. We navigated several roundabouts, green painted bike lanes, bike boxes, sandy paths in parks, and construction zones. The two girls on two bikes snaked through the city, avoid congested boulevards in favor of smaller back alleys. Marion explained to me that we give right of way to the traffic coming from the right (at least this is what I think she said in French), and that there were several laws we were breaking but she’s never been caught! Welp, no time to ask questions, so we ride on and do as the locals do. Off to run our errands: picking up some new duds for me and maybe some bling bling.
Two hours of Biking = What an appetite! All smiles and a light sweat later, with errands under way… time for a tasty lunch in a car free zone at Rue Montorgueil! Merci to Marion for taking me to another great local spot. There were tons of bikes shackled up against the fences, and the pedestrian quarter was short but sweet. Sunshine, cigarettes, and salad at a tiny table and chairs at an outdoor cafe was exactly what we needed to recharge. Bon appetit, mes Bike Commuters.
Two Bikes round up the Sites. We ended our day (a total of 6 hours of girly fun bike time) by taking the scenic route home, through Pere Lachaise Cemetery. In all my visits to Paris, I had never been to this famous cemetary. We rolled up to the automobile entry and were halted by the lady at the guardshack. To our surprise, she told us it was interdit to bring bikes into the cemetary! We expalined to her that we fully intended to walk our bikes through, as it is pretty steep, bumpy with cobble stones, and I was riding Le Super default single-speed. But, there was no reasoning with the law, she said we would have to lock our velos outside the cemetery and walk around inside without them. We left the auto entry and turned the corner, where we decided to sneak in via the pedestrian entry and carry our bikes up the staircase. I went up first with Le Super to check for a guard, so Marion wouldn’t have to carry the B*Twin up the steps if we were going to get caught. Lucky for us, a group of 30 middle schoolers were at the top of the staircase, creating a perfect diversion for us to sneak past… Merveilleuses Marion and Mir.I.Am made it into Pere Lachaise!
The Bike’s Eye View is the BEST Eye View of Paris. So touring about Paris from the saddle of a junky old bike, I decided I liked what I saw. Two girls playing follow the leader on two bikes in the City of Light was the best way to get around Paris in the summer. Imagine all the things we would’ve missed in the Metro! Imagine how sweaty we would be if we had to hoof it around the city instead. It was so fast to get around by bike that it made the big city feel small. Enjoy your summer, and enjoy your vacation commutes, Cycle Ladies and Gents!