Chicago Hops On The Bike Share Craze

@ChiGreenOffice, Twitter

Chicago has put a fleet of 700 sets of wheels on the pavement as part of the city’s first bike share program, Divvy. Sixty-five solar-powered docking stations now dot the area within a few miles of the lakefront, and as many as 4,000 bikes and 400 stations are expected to pop up across the city by next spring.

The bike share’s goal is to provide Chicagoans with an additional transportation option, but at $7 per day there’s no doubt tourists will be using pedal power to explore the city, too. As with other bike shares, the heavy-duty commuter bikes come with built-in-lights and a small front basket, and can be returned to any station after a jaunt around town.

[via Skift]

Bikers In Paris: Artcrank Poster Show Comes To The City Of Light

Adam Turman/Artcrank

Love bicycles? Love good graphic design? Love transportation-inspired art? You’ll love Artcrank.

The point of Artcrank is simple: get artists that have a love of bicycles to produce unique posters for shows in bike capitals around the world. The result is a fun combination of art and life on two-wheels around the world.

The latest showing kicks off this week in Paris at the Grand Palais, an homage to life on two wheels in the romantic City of Light, a place that has in recent years become home to a burgeoning bike culture. A lot of that is thanks to Velib, the city’s popular bikeshare system that has turned into a model for other velo-aspiring cities around the globe.

From artist Adam Turman:

“While visiting my sister in Paris, she had it in her head that we needed to ride bikes while we were there. My sister used the Vélib’ bikes to get from place to place instead of using the Metro. She said she could see much more of the beauty of Paris that way. She took me for a spin to see everything touristy and not-so-touristy via Vélib’. We rode on the Lover’s Bridge and past the Eiffel Tower, and we even did our reenactment of National Lampoon’s European Vacation scene where the family goes around the Arc de Triumph. That was the highlight of our bike ride through Paris.”

The show features top French, American and British artists and runs through June 21. Can’t make it by then? Not to worry, the show will be moved over and housed at Cité de la Mode et du Design until October 6, 2013.

International Adventure Guide 2013: Paris, France

An adventure guide to Paris? Yes.

At first glance, Paris probably isn’t the go-to city for outdoor enthusiasts. Metros, brasseries and the Champs Elysées don’t really make the top of the list of an adventurer’s itinerary. But being the diverse and ever-changing big city that it is, there are plenty of opportunities for those travelers that like to blend their urban tours with a little bit of adventure. There are parks to explore, bike paths to navigate and even a beach to walk on barefoot in the summertime. If you thought Paris was only for the urbanite, think again.

The other benefit to exploring the City of Light through the adventure lens is that in a city that’s known for being fairly expensive, Paris’ outdoor options are actually all very budget friendly, meaning that you end up with a city visit that’s both fun and also easy on the wallet.

Ready to explore a Paris that goes beyond croissants and red wine? Allons-y!

Activities

Bike
There’s no better way to explore Paris than by bicycle. It’s not for the faint of heart though; navigating between pedestrians, Parisian traffic and adrenaline-seeking inline skaters, the urban biker has to pay sharp attention. You can plan your own route and rent a bike through the now-famous Parisian bikeshare system Vélib (read our guide on How to Ride Bike in Paris for more details, including payment options as the Vélib automated machines can be tricky with American debit and credit cards), or your can get on a guided tour. Check out the following operators, which offer a variety of tour options, as well as bike rentals if you want a more long-term bike rental than Velib allows for as the bikeshare system is intended for short distance trips.

Fat Bike Tours– American owned and operated, Fat Bike Tours was created with the English speaker in mind. If you are looking to get outside of Paris you can take them up on their Monet Garden tour. Tours start at 30€. http://fattirebiketours.com/paris

Blue Bike Tours – Blue Bike Tours is run by a French-American family, and their Hidden Paris tour will take you to all the places locals go in the neighborhoods of Saint Germain and the Marais. A true insider’s guide to the city. Tours start at 29€. http://www.bluebiketours-paris.com/

Paris Bike Tour – Paris Bike Tour offers a Seine-specific guided tour, learning about monuments and bridges along the way. Tours start at 32€.
http://www.parisbiketour.net/uk/

Run
Running has become the sport of active minded urbanites, and if you’re the kind of traveler that always packs a pair of running shoes, Paris will have plenty of options for you. A couple of tips for running in the city:

  1. Get up early. You’ll find that morning runs around 6 or 7 can be relatively quiet compared with the hustle and bustle of the rest of the day. Parisians aren’t crazy enough to get up at the crack of dawn, so if you enjoy morning runs, the city is yours.
  2. Find a park. There are plenty of parks in the city that are great for running. Don’t be afraid to get out of the city center: parks like Parc Monceau, Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes are excellent for running adventures.
  3. Hit the Seine. There’s nothing quite like a long run along the iconic Seine. Plus it makes that dinner of wine and cheese later in the day so well deserved. On Sundays some of the quays are completely closed off to cars, which attracts a lot of locals out for walks, runs and roller blading. The city has put a lot of effort into making more and more of the riverside pathways car-free, so expect to see more of this in the future.

Don’t want to plan your own route? There are running tour operators for that. Check out the following groups who can help you coordinate a complete running tour of Paris, no matter what your running level. Because these running tours are guided by experienced athletes, you’ll find the prices a little higher than regular bike or walking tours.

Paris Running Tour: Going with a group is better as it will lower your price, so grab some friends. 55-85€ per person. http://www.parisrunningtour.com/

Paris Running Tours: Tours starting at 50€. http://parisrunningtours.com/

Wellicient: Along with running tours, Wellicient also do walking, fitness and stretching tours. http://www.wellicient.com/

Roller Blading
Make all the fun you want, but rollerblading is one of this city’s favorite pastimes, and if you want a truly Parisian experience, you’ll don a set of inline skates. There’s a popular weekly nighttime roller blade excursion hosted by Pari-Roller that takes place every Friday from 10pm to 1am. It starts at Place Raoul Dutry in Montparnasse and takes a different route every week. This gives you the chance to see the city in not only a different medium of transportation, but at night as well.

On Sundays you can take part in a group ride organized by Rollers & Coquillages. Gather close to the Bastille on Boulevard Bourbon and then take off with the hundreds of other skaters to enjoy the city. This group ride is a little better suited to beginners.

Hotspots

Bois de Boulogne
On weekends, this park of over 2,000 acres is a hotspot for locals, as there are trails to run and walk on, boats to row and horses to ride. Bois de Boulogneis on the western edge of the 16th arrondissement, so you are almost outside of Paris proper, but still have easy access via the Metro: Porte Dauphine or Porte d’Auteuil.

Promenade Plantée
This is your dose of green space right in the middle of the city. The extensive greenbelt is built on an old railway line, and is a gorgeous space of trees, plants and plenty of benches to sit down and have a picnic. At almost three miles long it makes for a good jogging route, as long as you hit it at a time of day when there aren’t too many people. Access the Promenade Plantée from the Bastille Metro station.

Bois de Vincennes
Bois de Vincennesis the largest public park in the city, with a velodrome for bike races, a horse racing track and four lakes. Bike lanes, trails for running and even a Buddhist Temple, this is the place to come when you need a break from the city. The park is to the west of the 12th arrondissement and is easily accessed by Metro: Porte-Dorée or Château de Vincennes.

Where to Stay

Paris Hostel
With shared and private rooms, Paris Hostel is a good option for those that want a budget accommodation that’s well located. The rooms are small, but breakfast is included and you are perfectly situated for a morning run up to Montmartre. From 26€/night with shared facilities, 28€/night with private facilities. 39 Rue Rodier.www.paris-hostel.biz

Hotel Campanile Bastille
A popular French budget hotel chain, Hotel Campanile puts you close to the Bastille and the Marais all with an inner courtyard in the hotel, meaning you can start every morning off with your coffee outside. You’re also within walking distance of the Promenade Plantee. From 100€/night. 9 Rue de Chemin Vert, www.campanile.com

Hi-Matic Hostel
Branded as an eco-hotel, the Hi-Matic is a clean and budget-friendly space that also serves up a 100% organic breakfast that is included in the room price. For the environmentally conscious, they also employ an eco-friendly taxi service and use natural materials whenever possible. They’re also big on health: a card with yoga poses is left in every room. From 109€/night. 71 Rue de Charonne. www.hi-matic.net

Logistics

Get Around
Paris is easy to navigate with public transportation. This easiest option is the Metro – but there are plenty of bus routes as well. You can buy a batch (carnet) of 10 one-way tickets for 13.30€ in machines in every metro station, which will get you a ride on both the Metro and buses. If you want to get yourself around, consider taking advantage of the Vélib bikeshare system. A one-day Vélib ticket runs 1.70€ or you can get a week pass for 8€ – the easiest wy to get a ticket is to buy one online and print out your subscription number that you then type in when you want to use a bike. You get the first 30 minutes of Vélib use for free, which makes the system ideal for doing short trips around the city; pick up a bike in one spot and drop it off in another.

Seasonality
For those looking to spend most of their time outdoors in Paris, late spring, summer and early fall are your best bets. Paris can get very cold in the winter, which puts a damper on your outdoor experiences. A popular city, there are always visitors in Paris, but if you’re looking to avoid crowds, try for spring or fall so you can avoid the summer tourists.

Safety
Much like any big metropolis, it’s important to always be vigilant in Paris, especially in crowded tourist areas and the Metro. That being said, Paris is a safe city, so just bring along a little street sense and you’ll be in good shape.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user TerryPresley]

10 Tips On Riding A Bike In New York City

new york city bike tips

Though officials are tight-lipped, rumor has it that New York City‘s much-anticipated Citi Bike share program will launch this month. As we previously reported, Citi Bike will provide residents and tourists with the opportunity to borrow from 10,000 bikes parked in 600 stations scattered across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Pricing for the privately run system will range from $9.95 for a 24-hour pass to $95 for an annual membership.

While Citi Bike is a welcome addition to New York’s transportation scene, tourists might be wary of tackling the streets of Manhattan, and for good reason. Between bumpy roads, unclear signage, reckless taxicabs and texting pedestrians, the city’s streets are not for the faint of heart.

But once you get over the initial fear, New York can be a magical place to explore on two wheels. We spoke with a handful of avid city cyclists, who shared their tips for staying safe while making the most of your bike share experience.

1. Research your route. “Study a map of NYC before you go out to get a sense of what areas are easy to bike,” suggests Eva Mohr, an avid cyclist whose biking e-commerce shop, All That I Want, launches this fall. Google Maps offers a way to search bike routes online and through its Android app. iPhone users should invest $1.99 in the Ride the City app, which generates a number of routes from “Safest” to “Direct.” The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) also publishes a free City Cycling Map, available for download and in select locations throughout the city.2. Obey the traffic rules. “Bicyclists have the same traffic rules as motorists,” says Alison Lucien, founder of Eleanor’s NYC, a bicycle accessories shop for women. “The ticket for running a red light on a bike is the same as for a driver, with the exception that bicyclists do not have to pay the surcharge.” Laws on riding recklessly and against the flow of traffic also apply.

3. Wear a helmet, advises Mohr. If you plan to do a lot of city biking, it’s worth the luggage space to pack your own safety gear. NYC’s DOT reports that in 97 percent of biking fatalities, the rider was not wearing a helmet. Though bike share programs in cities like London, Boston and Washington, DC, report low levels of accidents and fatalities, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

4. Dress brightly. Wearing bright clothing can attract the attention of motorists, especially at night. Plus, “neons and bold prints are all the rage in fashion, so it shouldn’t be hard,” says Lucien.

5. Follow bike lanes, but remain alert. “Unlike in established bicycle countries like Holland, the bike lane is not well respected in many areas – by vendors and crowds who treat it as a private sidewalk or by delivery vans and cabs that pull into it without warning,” says Nona Varnado, who designs urban cycling and multi-sport apparel for women and blogs about biking culture at The Bird Wheel. “It’s getting better all the time, but a bike lane still requires staying alert.”

6. Don’t be afraid to make some noise, advises Lucien. “Ring your bell and shout out, ‘heads up!’ when pedestrians walk out in front of you.”

7. Beware of taxis. “Watch out for cabs that stop on the side of the street and be prepared for doors to open unexpectedly,” says Mohr. “If you are riding a cab yourself, always make sure to check for cyclists first before opening the door.”

8. Watch out for pedestrians. It’s common for unaware pedestrians to step into the road without looking both ways, especially when they’re preoccupied in conversation or tapping away on their smartphones. Large vehicles like trucks and busses can also hide these sneakers. “While you pass a bus, keep your hands on the brakes at all times,” suggests Lucien.

9. Wear clothes you feel comfortable in. While flowing dresses and flimsy sandals may be popular summer attire for women, they’re often impractical for the rigors of city biking. “If you wear a dress, use a skirt garter not only to protect your clothes from getting dirty, but also to prevent the dress from getting tangled in the spokes,” advises Mohr.

10. Once you get comfortable, feel free to venture off the beaten path. “Smaller neighborhoods and side streets are best seen on a bike and tend to be less busy,” says Varnado. “This is where the real NYC is. By riding a bike you can see amazing things you’d never experience any other way.”

[Flickr image via Missy S., Citi Bike image via Citi Bike]

New York City bike share program coming in Summer 2012

new york city bike shareAt last, an urban bike share program is coming to New York City, and planners are involving city residents through community workshops, bike demos, and an online map system for suggesting station locations.

Organized by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) and Alta Bicycle Share, the program will be funded by private sponsorship and user fees. Though a fee schedule has not yet been released, organizers say that membership will cost less than a monthly public transportation Metrocard.

Coming off the success of networks like the Vélib in Paris and Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC, the New York City bike share program also hopes to capitalize on the popularity of alternative transportation methods among the city’s active and socially conscious communities. According to NYC DOT, commuter cycling more than doubled between 2005 and 2009, and it continues to grow each year. To cope with the demand, NYC DOT doubled the mileage of on-street bike lanes between 2007 and 2011. By 2017, they hope to triple it.

The new system will include more than 10,000 bikes at over 600 stations, and is part of a larger effort to make New York a more cycle-friendly city. The program is scheduled to kick off in Summer 2012.

In the meantime, check out this video celebrating the joys of New York City biking from my friends over at Holstee… and start shopping for a helmet.

[via NYC DOT, Flickr image via nycstreets]