On a Sunday morning in June 2015 I rode over to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées to have a look at an event called Les 24h de Vélib’ = The 24 hours of Vélib’.
Why it was called that I don’t know, since it actually lasted only twelve hours, from 8 am to 8 pm. For that time, the bottom end of the Champs-Elysées, from Place de la Concorde to the Petit Palais, was closed to motor traffic and turned into a 600 meter loop where anyone who wanted to could ride around in circles (for free) on one of the 400 Vélib’ bikes that had been brought here for the occasion.
The beginning and end of the loop were marked by an inflated white plastic arch (partly obscuring the Arch of Triumph in my first photo) with the word evian in big red letters. Apparently the company that sells Evian mineral water was one of the sponsors of the event. This quite expensive brand of bottled water comes supposedly from several springs in the French Alps near the town of Evian-les-Bains, which is on the French side of Lake Geneva (= Lac Leman) across the lake from the Swiss city of Lausanne.
One of the many things I learned from the now-defunct website VirtualTourist is that Evian spelled backwards is naïve.
This was the fourth annual edition of Les 24h de Vélib’. Some 8000 riders took turns riding around in circles, the idea being that for each loop they rode, somebody (I suppose the sponsors) would donate 0,50 Euros to the World Wildlife Fund or two other charities. In the twelve hours, the 8000 riders completed 42,000 loops of 600 meters each. If I have figured correctly this amounts to 25,200 km, which is slightly more than the circumference of the Earth. They rode once around the world, so to speak, and the sponsors or somebody donated 21,000 Euros to the charities.
On this June 2015 visit I was staying at a small hotel near the Gare de l’Est (East Station), which is where the trains arrive from and depart for my part of Germany. There are six Vélib’ bicycle stations close by, but they tend to run out of bikes in the mornings after the commuter trains arrive, so before leaving the hotel I made a habit of checking the Vélib’ website to see which of the stations still had bikes available. In my photo (above) these ladies are taking the last two bikes from this particular station.
After a while, by mid-morning, a man with two dozen bikes on a truck and trailer would come to re-fill the empty Vélib’ stations.
After this visit I took the EuroStar train to London, where I attended a VirtualTourist meeting and also tried out the London bike sharing system.
After returning from London, I spent several days in a part of Paris that I had never even set foot in before, namely Auteuil in the 16th arrondissement, in the far southwest corner of Paris. Here I made good use of the Vélib’ bikes, not only for exploring Auteuil but also for visiting the adjoining city of Boulogne-Billancourt, where there were more than twenty Vélib’ stations to choose from.
My photos in this post are from 2015. I revised the text in 2020.
Next: Vélib’ 2016.