When we were in Paris I saw so many people riding their bikes, men and women -- and at all times of the day and night. One evening around 11pm we were sitting at an outside cafe and I watched at least 5 women riding past us wearing dresses. Purses in tow and looking like they had not a care in the world for their safety. Amazing. Would we try that in the big cities of the US? Probably not.
Anyway here are some tips from an article at the Venere Travel Blog if you want to ride like a French person.
And while the process of buying and selling back your bicycle from a shop can be a hassle if you don’t speak the language, it is well worth the freedom and romance you’ll feel whizzing around the Arc de Triomphe or under a canopy of poplars in the Bois du Boulogne on two wheels.There are some streets you’ll want to avoid and certain hilly areas of Paris you may or may not be able to climb depending on your fitness level. These five tips will help you stay out of accidents and find the true Zen of bike riding in Paris.
Tip #1: Learn some useful phrases…Or at least learn how to say some numbers in French. In my experience, most bike shop owners will give you a fair deal and be upfront about the condition of the bike. But very few will be willing to speak in English to you. I had an experience once where the shop owner, when I returned to sell back the bike two weeks later, pretended not to know me or remember the deal he promised. Once I stopped speaking English and addressed him in my basic French, his memory instantly improved. You don’t have to know a lot, just enough to show them you’re not a naïve American or Brit.
Tip #2: Avoid the following streets and Arrondissements…Arrondissement means neighborhood in French. Some of them are perfectly conducive to a quiet, peaceful ride, but some of them are like something about of Indiana Jones. The Latin Quarter is tempting, but the narrow streets are usually very crowded with pedestrians and outdoor diners. You don’t want to end up with your head in a bowl of French onion soup. Instead, try a ride through the nearby Odeon district in the streets between the Seine and the Boulevard Saint-Germain. They are relatively level and residential, so you can just enjoy the architecture and feel like you’re in an old movie.
The Quai des Tuileries and the Rue de Rivoli, both on either side of the Louvre, are also straight, level and tree-lined. If you’re in a daring mood, go around the circular streets of the Arc de Triomphe in the Place de Charles de Gaulle and head west down the Avenue Foch to the Bois du Boulogne, to ride through the trails in the forest.
Stay away from the Boulevard Saint-Michel and the Luxembourg gardens. There are too many bus lanes. Montmartre would also be a bad idea, as well as anywhere south of the Trocadero or the Rue de Passy in the 16th arrondissement. The inclines are incredibly steep.
Tip #3: Buy a pair of gloves.The most common problem that occurs as you’re riding your bike through town is the chain will fall of the chainring. It’s usually a cinch to put back on, but because the chain is covered in grease, you’ll be left with blackened hands and get stares if you go to a café or museum looking soiled. Stuff some gloves in a satchel or backpack and you’ll keep your hands clean and free from injury when a bike malfunction does arise.
Tip #4: Buy a bike with a basket and horn.Yes, you will look like an old lady, but it truly does come in handy. Unless you plan on racing in the Tour de France, a clunky bike with wide tires and a sturdy frame will pose the least amount of problems and has less of a chance of being stolen when you lock it up outside.
Tip #5: Rubber band the cuff of your pant legs.If you’re wearing nice pants, the last thing you want is for the cuff to get stuck in the chainring or petal mechanism and tear. That’s why I recommend putting a rubber band around your lower leg or ankle to keep your clothes clean and prevent an accident. You want to get places on your bike, but you don’t want to arrive looking like a homeless person. So keep your trips light, don’t get too sweaty, and, of course, check the weather report. You’ll do just fine.Source: Venere Travel Blog Check our their blog while you're there, You'll find lots of very helpful info.