by 303 Contributor Lauren Greenfield
Over the summer, on otherwise “quiet” day I decided to add some excitement to my life and pushed the “buy now” for a ticket to France. Great deal. Had the vacation time. And no where else in the world I’d rather go . . . .
Last week, I packed up my Surly Long Haul Trucker in a brown box, packed my awesome Ortlieb panniers and off I flew. With no agenda. Whatsoever. I have been to France many times, but never on bike. I ride bike all the time and everywhere. But never in France. It was only a matter of time, while searching for the “perfect vacation” (ha – what else needed? Bike. France. Baguette. Fromage et du vin) that the second annual “Journee sans voitures” would be occurring the day that I arrived.
So Sunday morning at 7:30, after assembling mon velo at the Charles de Gaulle airport, I opted to take the RER (train), admittedly, a bit nervous about riding from the airport. Rolled out of the train station, however, ready to RIDE with the Parisians. And that I did. Paris shut down between 400-600 miles of roads to cars that day, including the popular Champs-Elysees between the Arc de Triomphe and the Concorde. And many others. There were families. Older folks, even teenagers. I was one of few who was decked out in touring gear, and was appraoched by several asking where I was from, where I was going, etc. Truly a celebratory way to start a vacation.
Apparently, Paris has totally adopted the bike scene, boasting 20,000 “b bikes” at 1800 locations throughout the City. Similar to those in the US, they are gold and also “heavy/durable” but they’re being ridden.
So, while I LOVE to ride in Manhattan and other large cities where it pays to be assertive, I was a bit nervous about riding in Paris. The round-about thing thing freaked me out, though now 4 days into my trip, I’m still alive and have likely maneuvered 50 of them already. But my greatest discomfort is all of the one way streets that provide signage “sauf cycles” meaning bikes are allowed. The wrong way. Down a one way street. And might I mention that those streets are usually about as wide as our bike paths. However, French cars are smaller than those in the US AND the entire country is trained/accustomed to sharing. So even I have stepped out of my comfort zone and started going the wrong way down one way streets. Legally. In France.