Today I took the time to find out how this bike rental service in Paris works. We've been seeing the bikes all over and lots of people using them. It's pretty simple, the system is called velib, and it's quite easy to use. The idea is that there are self-serve bike rental kiosks all over the city, especially close to subway stations and busy shopping or business areas. You can grab a bike anywhere and drop it off at another location near your destination. Rate are really cheap: 0-30 min is free, up to an hour is 1 Euro, and it goes up a bit from there. After 4 hrs, it's 4 Euro/hr, so it is definitely biased toward short term rentals.
We set up temporary short term subscriptions, but you can choose 1 week or longer subscriptions, or better yet it can be linked to a Navigo card, which looks to be a refillable metro (subway/bus) pass. The Navigo is RFID enabled so you don't even need to check in at the kiosk. You just choose a bike from the stand and wave your card over the receiver. When you arrive at your destination, you just roll it back into the lock mechanism, it beeps and locks up the bike and you're on your way.
The bikes themselves are nothing special, but they all appear to be in good condition, they have easily adjustable seats and were comfortable enough to ride. They have three speeds and are equipped with lights front and back, a carrying basket and a cable lock with a key you can use if you need to lock up somewhere where there is not a kiosk stand available. All in all, a convenient and inexpensive system for getting around this city. However, I do wonder if cycling here causes the same kind of brain damage that seems to have affected most of the scooter drivers here - they are completely insane!