City bike riding is one of my biggest fears. Always has been, always will be.
So much so, that back in March when I came to Paris with my friends Lauren and Alex, they went on a bike tour of St. Germain without me. Not because I generally oppose tours. Because I was too scared to ride a bike.
But the idea of riding a bike along the Seine, of riding through Paris with flowers and vegetables in my basket, was just too tempting to avoid. I wanted to see the city faster than I could by walking, and spatially realize that the Centre Pompidou is only about 10 minutes from my apartment. I had to face my fears.
I held my breath and signed up for a Vélib’ account, just in time for last weekend’s Journée sans voitures. At 30€ per year, it’s a pretty decent form of transportation/exercise. I studied my route beforehand, riding from my house in the 10e arrondissement to school across the Seine in the 7e. I Googled tips after tips after tips of “how to ride a bike in Paris” and “how to not die while riding a bike in a city.” These tips, specific to Paris, from Lost in Cheeseland helped a lot, too.
And then, I was off. I didn’t get hit by a car, though I did almost run into several pedestrians myself…next time I know better than to bike past Notre Dame on a Sunday.
A week later, Paris took the cars off the street for the first Journée sans voiture. Luckily, the “sans voiture” path intersected with my route to the library, though not entirely. When Paris says it’s running without cars, it doesn’t mean all of them — a fact that, unfortunately, I learned at Place de la Concorde, one of the scariest traffic circles in Paris.
I made it up and down the Champs-Élysées and turned off at the Grand Palais, going over the Pont Alexandre III to Les Invalides, where my beloved library was waiting. That was the best part of my ride, away from the Champs and crowds and onto the empty streets and gilded bridge. No cars, no rush, and best of all, no fear of getting hit by a car while crossing the bridge. I, like many others, think the city of Paris should make the Journée sans voitures a weekly event…but until then, I’ll probably just stick to my Sunday rides, when the cars are few and I am pas pressé. ♦