We all see those people. The woman in the 3-inch hot pink heels, the man in the slick gray suit, smoking cigarettes and talking on the phone as they weave their bikes between sardined taxis. Sorry to break it to you, but you're not that cool yet. Here are some tips for beginner bikers in Paris:
Rules of the road: a compilation of my past mistakes
1. Do not challenge the light
Parisians care more about getting blood on their car than your safety. Living on the brink of Neuilly, one of the more 'chi' suburbs of Paris, I see people brushing their Mercedes-Benz's on a daily basis. With this in mind, Parisian drivers will dodge you, but they will definitely not slow down. Last time I chanced it, I was nearly hit by a taxi who didn't even think about slowing down, causing me to almost run over two little old ladies shouting, "doucement fille!"
2. Avoid bus-only lanes
No really, a bus will hit you if you ride in these lanes. While many bus lanes are shared with bikes, there are also many designed with only enough space for a bus. The other day I made this grave mistake and had only a split second to hug my heavy ass Velib to the sidewalk rail and pray the bus driver saw me. Believe me, those things are not light, and those buses are not small.
3. No time for a map - plan ahead
If you're like me, you might think 'Oh hey, there are tons of huge landmarks in Paris. I don't need a map.' Where that plan led me the first time was through the Jardin des Tulleries, where I got shouted at by an angry, yellow vest, then on the Place de la Concorde, where it took me 10 minutes to gain enough courage to book it half way, then to the other side between surges of traffic and then to the Champs Elysees roundabout, where I lost all hope and suffered the shame of irritated looks, as people tripped over my bike on the crowded, touristy sidewalk.
4. Roudabout confidence
If you're a little smarter than me you might take a glance at the most efficient route according to Google maps, noting road names in your head and thinking you'll check it along the way. Think again. Once you've made it into an intersection, there is no hope for digging out your phone. You better memorize that road name or you'll end up rounding your way a few times before you get off to check your phone and walk your bike thrice more before realizing that dear Google forgot to tell you the road name changes on the other side.
5. Don't be afraid to pull over and snap a shot
People will instantly know you're a tourist, but hey, a shot of the sun going down behind the Eiffel Tower on a perfect evening is something everyone should take the time to appreciate. A lot of Parisians take the beauty around them for granted because it's "touristy." Well really, it's their loss if they can't enjoy one of the most architecturally beautiful cities and capture it on their Desktop. And that's why, even though i still get nearly run off the road by buses and bitched out by old ladies, i still prefer a pretty Parisian view to a dark, dirty tunnel.