Parisians seem to love to smoke and eat baguettes, but they absolutely do not dig wearing bicycling helmets –although I did see one woman wearing a cute one (go girl!). When I asked a bicycle shop worker why no one wears helmets, he explained, “because there is no law to do so, and it would not look right with one’s Sunday best outfit.” The worker was originally from Holland and said that the folks in Amsterdam absolutely don’t wear helmets either, but that cycling paths are everywhere and completely separate from traffic.
I was totally confused when my gps kept sending me down one way streets in Paris. It turns out that cyclists are permitted on oneway streets going in the opposite direction of traffic. Oh my – a little frightening on the many extra narrow ones. Note that Sunday is a good day to cycle as lots of stuff is closed and the traffic is very slight. Paris does have designated cycling paths throughout the city, but you may have something like a massive market set up on it, and no one giving a damn about you being a cyclist as they select the perfect cheese.
Paris has a nifty public bicycle system set up and people seem to be using it. I would say that was probably the majority of bicycle that I saw about town. You join it online. Then you can pick up or drop off a bicycle all over town (supposedly they have designated locations every 500 meters). The first 30 mins are free. So the trick is to do short trips. Thereafter there is a minimal hourly fee. The snag I was told is that sometimes when you go to leave a bicycle, the rack will be full and you end up spending lots of extra time riding around looking for an open one. It all depends where you are going. Also, sometimes the bicycles are not in great working order. However, the people I saw on them clearly were making use of them. Paris could use more biking parking though. Oh and about those cool little seats cyclists attach to their rear racks (see pic)! So Cool!
I’m loving my new bicycle flag! A whole new Paris opened up when I added my fun homemade one. Suddenly the otherwise extra cool standoffish French were smiling and chatting me up. One person remarked, “It makes you look friendly and like you are on some sort of journey.” As an improvement for the future, the pole need to be shorter so the flag does not catch in trees or trains in cities. The flag won’t be good for stealth camping, but otherwise, I’m digging it (plus, it does detach so I can hide it when need be). Okay time to get out on the road and out of the city!