I arrived in Paris this morning and had the day to kill in order to adjust my internal clock after the previous evening's red-eye from Boston. As I have mentioned before, I was unsure what my access to the Velib system would be due to many things I had read online. I was even told by the person who is responsible for my accommodations while I am here that I would not be able to use the system. Below are my initial impressions:
Firstly, I am happy to report that Americans and those without credit cards with a chip CAN use Velib, with the following caveats: you MUST have an AMEX, as MC and VISA don't work; then you MUST have a Navigo Metro card. This is the same rfid card that is used for subway trips (similar to the Charlie Card in Boston).
Parisian drivers are worse than those in boston.
Almost no one wears helmets here, and as such I have not been wearing one either. Considering that the whole point of Velib is that you can just pick up a bike on a whim, it's hard to imagine how one would always wear a helmet. It would be really inconvenient to carry a helmet with you everywhere just in case you decide to ride. (I know, not nearly as inconvenient as a brain injury, but this is coming from someone who has seen a friend saved from said device and who has a neurologist for a father-in-law, and I still don't see myself carrying one around everywhere).
The stations for drop-off/pick-up are EVERYWHERE and they tend to be on secondary roads rather than main drags.
The bikes all roll on Schwalbe Marathons.
The bike use Shimano Nexus 3-speed drive trains.
The one place where they have obviously skimped is on the seat collar/quick-release. While this may seem to be no big deal, it's actually a huge problem as at least half of the ten or so bikes I rode in one day had seats that would twist and inevitably fall into the frame.
This is my first blog post from my phone, so it may come out with fucked-up formatting, for which I apologize.