Biking in Paris: bring a spare tube

Morning clouds on Bassin de la Villette

Morning clouds on Bassin de la Villette in Paris

PARIS, FRANCE – How long does it take to bike from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eastern edge of Paris? This was the premise of a recent bicycle circuit in the City of Light.

Having covered many of Paris’ 20 arrondissements separately on foot over the course of several visits, I was curious to see them back to back.

What I found was a web of marked routes and dedicated bike lanes stretching from the tony neighbourhoods around Monceau to the positively “popular” areas around Gare du Nord, and further into the banlieus.

The ride (less than 2  hours r/t) took me through Pigalle, past the Moulin Rouge, by a horde of tour buses and Place de Clichy and dumped me at Bassin de la Villette, an artificial lake in the middle of the city built up from the Saint Denis Canal.

"Paris Plage" at Bassin de la Villette

"Paris Plage" at Bassin de la Villette

The Bassin or reservoir is surrounded by a series of open plazas and boat piers with tourist cruises running up the Saint Denis and is reason enough to check out this route.

I also happened to catch the last weekend of Paris Plages, a municipal effort converting various waterfront areas in the city including the Bassin, into “beach front” with lounge chairs, water sports and of course, sand.

Sleepy Sunday by the beaches in Paris

Other attractions included the vibrant jumble of new immigrant neighbourhoods running north east of the park – check out the Maghreb food stalls spilling into the street along Avenue Flandre.

I also loved the funky urban infrastructure here including the elevated train trusses along Avenue de la Chappelle going south towards Gare du Nord.

The bike route south from the Bassin on Blvd. de la Villette/Blvd. de Bellville will take you through pleasant every day Paris neighbourhoods devoid of shtick and deposit you in front of the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in case you haven’t got your Jim Morrison/Oscar Wilde fix.

On the whole, the dedicated bike lanes like the one running from Boulevard des Batignolles, to Place de la Villete look awfully nice with sections providing a great traffic-free vantage point from which to take in the surrounding street life, and sizable stretches running along a lush median.

A word of caution though, bring a spare tube or two; the dedicated lanes tend to accumulate glass as they border the sidewalks and don’t seem to benefit from street cleaning.

In fact, I found the shared bus/bike lanes to be preferable for this reason. At least they are not full of dog deposits…

Download the Paris bike map here.

Happy riding.