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Six of the best Paris cycling routes
VELIB AND BIKE RENTAL
Paris's cycle-friendly mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to ban most cars from the city centre, which would make the vast Velib bike-share scheme and 440km of bike lanes even more appealing. There are 20,000 three-speed unisex bikes available from 1800 stations every 300 metres. Buy a short-term ticket online to avoid foreign credit card microchip problems. Cost is $2.50 for a day ticket or $12 for a seven-day ticket, offering an unlimited number of 30-minute journeys. Trips longer than 30 minutes cost extra ( $1.50 for the first extra half-hour etc). For longer trips, rent a bike from $22 daily. A new, still-limited P'tit Vélib program offers little bikes for little people. Other great cycling spots are: along the Seine, in the Marais and Beaubourg, Montparnasse and Luxembourg.
Apart from Pere Lachaise cemetery, tourists can neglect Paris's eastern arrondissements, hardly venturing beyond the Bastille. The Promenade Plantee, long predating New York's High Line, is a 4.7-kilometre tree-lined elevated walk and cycleway built atop the disused 19th-century Vincennes railway viaduct. Think blossoming cherry trees, maples, roses and lavender. Enter just east of Opera Bastille, carry your bike up the stairs (lifts are often broken). Push your bike for the first pedestrian-only 1.5-kilometre stretch, then mount for the final 3 kilometres, following the line to the 995-hectare Bois de Vincennes on Paris's eastern edge. This charming park contains cycle paths plus the Chateau de Vincennes, lakes, arboretum, zoo and English landscaped garden. Picnic at one of the northern lakes – Lake Daumesnil, Lac des Minimes and Lac de Saint-Mande.
CANAL BIKE PATHS
The trendy, tree-lined 4.5-kilometre Canal St-Martin, with its charming locks and swing bridges, is a lovely spot to begin a day's biking. St-Martin is one section of a 130-kilometre canal network (including Canals St-Denis and Ourcq) that Napoleon built in the early 1800s to provide Paris with drinking water. Rent a bike near Republique, where the canal bike path begins (see parisvelosympa.com) and make your way to Quai de Valmy on St-Martin (the canal runs underground from Bastille to Republique). Enjoy St-Martin's cafes, parks, houseboats and boutiques before turning onto Canal de L'Ourcq and pedalling northeast out of the city. Stop at Parc de la Bergere for a picnic lunch. The path ends near Claye-Souilly, 36km from Republique. Go only as far as you like.
DAY AND NIGHT TOURS
Historic bike tours are a great introduction to Paris. You can't go past Fat Tire Bike Tours for their Paris Day and Night tours – do them both and there's a 50 per cent discount. The 10.5-kilometre, 3.5-hour day tours leave at 11am or 3pm and include Alexander III bridge, the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Gardens, Les Invalides, Napoleon's tomb and Place de la Concorde. The 13-kilometre, 4.5-hour night tour begins at 7pm in summer and includes the Latin Quarter, Ile de la Cite for a Berthillon ice cream stop, the Pont des Arts, the Louvre and a boat cruise with free wine. Less talking, more romanticising on this tour. Adult cost of $46 includes bike (with its own name!) and helmet ($65 for the day/night combo).
PARIS TO VERSAILLES
This 9-hour day trip guides you by bike through the royal forest, Marie Antoinette's village, and the Grand and Petit Trianons, with time to explore the fabulous chateau. You'll stop at the Versailles farmers' market to buy supplies for your picnic lunch beside the Grand Canal. Adult ticket costs $115, or $90 if you have a Paris Museum Pass, and includes round-trip train ticket to Versailles, bike, guide, chateau and Marie Antoinette tickets.
Several companies run this tour (Viator, Blue Bike Tours, Fat Tire) but for this one, see bikeabouttours.com/index.htm
BOIS DE BOULOGNE
Like the eastern Bois de Vincennes, the 850-hectare Bois de Boulogne is another massive green lung for Parisians. This former hunting ground of French kings is now a paradise of formal gardens, walking and horse-riding trails, oak, cedar, plane and gingko forests, lakes for boating, plus 15 kilometres of cycling paths. These include a 9.2-kilometre discovery track and a 3.6-kilometre loop around Longchamp racecourse if you want to join the lycra brigade. Take the metro to Les Sablons and walk to the roundabout where you can hire bikes from Paris Cycles (up to $17.50 a day). Take a couple of hours to explore the eastern lakes, the historic garden at the centre with its purple beech and the Jardin D'Acclimation at the park's north end which has a zoo, boat rides and miniature golf.
The writer travelled at her own expense