We were out on the Quai d'Orsay and needed to go across town to the Passy neighborhood in the 16th arrondisement. We had a few things working against us:
1. Strike- limited transport if any in the direction we needed.
2. No taxi stands around, and once found, a long queue of people with no taxi in sight.
3. Don't have Velib' map, so we know where to get bike, but not where to drop it off.
4. Too far to hike without being dreadfully late.
5. Don't have proper Velib' attire. I have long coat, skirt, tights and patent leather shoes on. Not that a sassy outfit stops the French women from hopping on a bike, and beautifully pedaling down the road.
After considering and reconsidering our options, we decide against what my conscience was telling me, and hop on the Velib'.
Have I mentioned that it's hard for me to obey the traffic laws on a bike? I think there should be special laws for me, like the law of inertia- if my bike is in motion it should stay in motion until I alone feel the need to stop. As such, stopping for red lights and pedestrians would be totally optional. If it was convenient to stop, for example- heading down hill, needing to look at a map, needing a rest, then I will. But if not, I will pedal faster and hope for the best.
Sadly, this is just how I behaved last night on my Veib' (even after my mother warned of the 180 Euro fine for going through a red light). I just caught the end of a green light, and pedalled like hell through the huge intersetion at Pont d'Alma. The pedestrians started crossing in front of me, but I squeeked through very quickly with a few people shouting at me.
When confronted with a big intersection, such as the one at Alma Marceau that loomed ahead of me, I kind of panic. I think like a pedestrian and try to dart through the intersection when traffic is light. This is totally illegal and kind of dangerous. I totally was frightened of my own crossing of the intersection when I pulled over at the flame where Princess Diana was killed. Creepy.
I decide to calm down and return to safe riding methods. I looked for Sean who didn't make it through the initial light that I sped through. "How is he going to handle this big intersection?" I thought aloud. I finally see him and he is riding quite properly with traffic obeying all the rules. "He makes it look so easy," I muttered.
Don't get me wrong. You may recall my elated postings about the freedom of hopping on a Velib' and heading across town with the ease of taking steps. This is still true. I do love the freedom, practicality and quickness of the Velib'. But this time it was dark. We weren't exactly sure where we were going, and I had a crazy outfit on for bicycling.
We had to head up a hill, but it wasn't too bad, as we were able to mount the hill using the Velib's three gears. Finally, we were close.
Where to park the Velib'? I ask a fellow rider, and he indicates up a one way road that isn't the way we need to go. We take another street for a while, cut through another street and finally find a station where we can park our bikes.
In my mind, it was quite an ordeal just getting to the dinner. We told our hosts that we took the Velib' to get there, and they merely said, "Yes, they're quite practical, aren't they?" (They weren't aware of the life and death nature of our commute that evening).
Indeed they are. I intend to get some of those reflective arm bands for future rides. We were totally dressed in all dark clothes which also made me nervous. The Velib' does conveniently come equipped with a red tail light and a small white headlight, but the more seen the better. Maybe I could add a whole arch of balloons to my bike like my neighbor back home does.
In any event, I'm still grateful for the Velib' and for our safe arrival last night.