Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
ON YER BIKE: 'Beached whales offer a great way to explore Paris'
Lucky little me got whisked off to Paris for the weekend and although much time was spent gorging on French cuisine and drinking a little too much vin rouge, I did manage to get some Cycling in, despite the excessive grazing activities.
My friend and I had been traversing the Parisian streets on foot for some 10 minutes but seeing as we are both natural born cyclists, the pace and ground we were managing to cover was beginning to grate.
“Oui, pourquoi pas Honour.” my friend replied.
So we went in search of a bicycle from the city’s Vélib cycle hire scheme.
We stuck our plastic cards into the machine and voila, a good impersonation of a bicycle was presented to us.
I feel a little mean criticising the trusty steeds that earnestly took us around the French capital, but they were horrendous.
Built like a tank, they manoeuvre like a beached whale and if you manage to find one in an adequate atheistic state, it will invariably present to you some inherent safety defect that causes you to go flying through crossroads to the amusement of Parisian spectators aghast at your abandonment of your own well being.
And I don’t have enough column space to describe all the noises they make – let me just tell you there is no need for a bell, as we managed to let everyone know we were coming purely by changing gear, applying slight pressure to the brakes or even by simply moving.
But despite the mechanical issues, the scheme makes sure you are never far away from a docking station.
For instance, we docked and cycled, drank, undocked and cycled, docked and ate to our hearts’ content, safe in the knowledge we were never more than five minutes from another docking station.
Compared with our capital city, Paris is leagues ahead for cycling; indeed, there are also 440 kilometres (270 miles) of cycle paths and 29km of bus lanes that cyclists can use.
The majority of these routes are painted cycle paths on the road but occasionally you have the delight of a piste cyclable – these are bike lanes separated from other traffic by a physical barrier or some kind of kerb.
And if you’re lucky enough to be in Paris on a Sunday, the streets are virtually car-free.
Paris Respire (literally “Paris breathes”) is a car-free scheme where certain roads are closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays and public holidays between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
Cycling and walking are the main forms of getting around on these days.
Not only do they outstrip us in the infrastructure stakes, they manage to in the fashion stakes as well.
Contrary to the cycle style in London, which consists of high-visibility clothing, helmet, gas mask and in some cases body armour, the Parisians float around in everyday clothing, sans helmet and seeing as the Parisian uniform seems to consist of only beige, black or grey, they obviously wouldn’t be seen dead in high-vis.
So needless to say, I felt rather at home in Paris, what with cycles on demand, dedicated cycle lanes and the normalisation of cycling as an everyday mode of transport. Tres bien!
Comments are closed on this article.