How to use Velib bikes in Paris
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Using Velib bikes in Paris is easy to do and here we will take you through how the service works so you can get underway nice and quickly. There are really only a couple of steps in the process to rent a Velib bike. First, you need to choose and purchase an access pass and secondly choose the bike you want to ride, key your code in, and away you go. We have used the Velib bikes on a couple of occasions when visiting Paris, most recently in November 2022.
Velib is the name of the Paris public bike-share service which has been in operation since 2007 and was one of the first such schemes introduced. Today it is a network of 20 000 bikes, 40% of which are electric, spread across 1 400 stations. The Velib website states that “there is a docking point every 300m in Paris” so you will have no problems finding a bike to ride. The service is very well used and you will see people all over Paris on them. In September 2020 the service recorded its highest-ever monthly usage at 5.5M trips which is quite impressive.
How the Velib bike-share service works
The good news is that using the service is easy, but like anything, there are a few things to be aware of first. Here is what you need to know.
The Velib bikes
There are two types of bikes you can use known as classic and electric. Classic bikes are non-power assisted whereas electric bikes have a motor that provides assistance so you don’t have to do all the work yourself. The classic bikes are green in colour whereas the electric bikes are blue. The docking stations accept both bike types so you don’t have to find a docking station specific to the type of bike you are riding.
Both types of bikes are equipped with:
- 3-speed gearing – operated by twisting the right-hand grip, there is a display to show you what gear you are in
- A keypad and display – this is used when unlocking the bike from the docking station and also displays the time since you unlocked the bike and the speed when you are riding.
- Front and rear brakes – operated by levers from the handlebars
- Adjustable seat
- Front white light and rear red light – these operate automatically as you ride
- Basket to put a bag in
- Mobile phone pouch – handy when using your phone for navigation as it has a clear window
- Cable lock – located on the right-hand side of the handlebar
Purchasing a Velib pass as a visitor
The first step in the process of using the Velib bikes is to purchase an access pass using a credit or debit card. There are 4 Velib passes that have been designed specifically for visitors to Paris, ticket-V pass, 24-hour classic pass, 24-hour electric pass, and 3-day pass. You will pay €3 for a single-use pass, between €5-€10 for a 24-hour pass, and €20 for a 3-day pass. Passes can be purchased on the Velib website, the Velib app (android and Apple), or at a docking station.
Passes purchased online or at the docking station come with an 8-digit access code and you will need to choose a 4-digit pin. The codes are used when unlocking the bikes so make sure you keep them safe. If you purchase the pass at the docking station a ticket will be printed with the access code but you can also have the code emailed to you. For online purchases, the codes are emailed to you. If you purchase your pass using the app, everything will be stored within the app and you simply swipe your phone over the reader on the bike to access it.
All purchases on the Velib system are on credit or debit cards only, there are no options to pay by cash. You are required to pay a €300 deposit for each bike which is taken as a pre-authorization on your card. This is released once your pass expires and the bikes have been returned correctly.
This pass is designed for someone who only wants a single trip on the Velib bikes. It costs €3 and allows you to take a bike, ride it and return it to a docking station. Once the trip has ended the pass expires. With this pass, you can use either the classic bike or an electric bike and the first 45 minutes of use is free. If you have the bike for more than 45 minutes then you will pay €1 per 30 minutes on a Classic bike or €2 per 30 minutes on an electric bike.
For example, if you purchase the Ticket-V pass and use a classic bike for an hour the total cost will be €4 being €3 for the pass and €1 for the additional 30 minutes. If you only used the bike for 30 minutes you would only pay the €3 pass fee and no more.
24-hour pass classic
The 24-hour pass classic is perfect for those who are visiting Paris for a day or two and wish to use the classic bikes. This pass costs €5 and allows you to use the bikes as many times as you wish over the life of the pass. For classic bikes the first 30 minutes of each trip are free and then you pay €1 for each additional 30-minute period. If you do decide to use an electric bike with this plan there are no free minutes included and you will pay €2 per 30 minutes from the start of the hire.
24-hour pass electric
In essence, this is the same as the previous pass but aimed at those who wish to use electric bikes rather than classic bikes. This pass will cost you €10 and the first 60 minutes are free on a classic bike and the first 45 minutes are free on electric bikes. After the free period, you will pay €1 per 30 minutes for both classic and electric bikes.
If you use electric bikes, the 45-minute free period only applies to your first 6 trips. If you hire an electric Velib more than 6 times you will pay €1 per 30 minutes from the time you undock the bike. This does not apply to the classic bikes which you can use as often as you wish and still get the free 60 minutes.
If you are spending more than a couple of days in Paris then the 3-day pass is a good option. It costs €20 and allows the use of both classic and electric bikes. For classic bikes, the first 60 minutes are free then €1 per 30-minute period after that. For electric bikes, the first 45 minutes are free then €1 per 30-minute period after that.
Like the 24-hour electric pass, if you use an electric bike with the 3-day pass the 45-minute free period only applies to the first 6 trips. Over a 3-day period, this is something you need to be more aware of as it is much more likely you could hit this limit.
There are also 3 different annual passes available, V-Libre, V-Plus, and V-Max. These are geared more toward residents of Paris as they all require a 12-month commitment. The V-Libre might work for visitors as it has no monthly charge and all bike use is paid for at €1 for each 30-minute period on classic bikes and for electric bikes €3 for the first 45 minutes, then €2 for each 30-minute period after that. The V-Plus is €3.10 per month or €37.20 annually and the V-Max is €8.30 per month or €99.60 annually and could also benefit someone staying in Paris for a week or two.
Using the Velib bikes
Once you have your pass purchased the second step is to grab a bike and start riding. If you have purchased your pass online or at the docking station you will need your 8-digit access code and 4-digit pin. If you have purchased your pass using the app then you will need your phone to access the bike. The steps to do this are as follows:
- Select the bike you wish to ride, green for classic and blue for electric
- Check the tires and general condition of the bike before you use it. Sometimes the tires may be flat or the bike damaged in some way. If you are using an electric bike check the battery level by pressing the √ sign on the right-hand side of the keypad that will activate the display.
- Press the large √ button on the right-hand side of the keypad
- If you have an access code and pin – enter the 8-digit code and 4-digit pin at the prompts
- If you have the app – swipe your phone over the reader. Ensure NFT is turned on if necessary.
- The bike should now unlock and you can pull it away from the docking station
When you finish using the bike you simply need to find a docking station with empty places available and push the bike into the locking mechanism. You should hear a beep and you will see “Stop” on your display. We always double-check the bike is secure before we head off.
Other tips and information
Here are some of the other things we have learned after riding the bikes that will also help you understand how to use the Velib bikes
- Bikes do not have to be returned to the docking station you took them from – you can take a bike from any of the 1,400 docking stations and return it where ever suits you.
- The Velib website and app include an interactive map that shows where the docking stations are located and how many bikes are currently available at a particular station.
- On some occasions, the bike may not release from the docking station. Simply wait until the screen displays “Stop” and select another bike.
- If you take a bike and find that the gears do not work properly or there is some other problem with the bike, simply return it and grab another one. Other than the Ticket-V pass all the other passes include free minutes and multiple hires.
- Make sure the bike is securely locked at the end of your hire. The screen will indicate “Stop” when it is returned correctly. If the bike is not locked your deposit may be lost.
- You can add up to 5 bikes on a single pass, but you still pay the pass fee per bike. For example, we purchased the 24-hour classic pass for 2 bikes. The pass cost us €10 being €5 for each bike. We only needed one access code and one pin number to access the bikes though.
- The Velib website includes video tutorials on how to use the bikes. The text is all in French but you can see how to use the bikes if you get stuck.
- If you have not ridden in Paris before read our article about riding a bike in Paris.
More information about France
If you are heading to France on holiday be sure to check out our Visiting France page which has information about using mobile phones, accessing money, how to access a doctor, hiring a car, and lots more.