Articles and Photos by David "Q." May                   All rights reserved ©2001-2012
Last cycled August 2001

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Route 2: The Marne River and the Marne - Ourcq Circuit

How to Bicycle East from Paris -

Cycling on the Marne River Bike Route

Maps:  Paris map, suburban maps for northeast and southeast suburbs,
                 IGN Map # 9 and (for the loop) #21
.

 

Nature of the Ride:

The Marne River cycle route, which continues for about 30 kilometers (18 miles) to the east of Paris, is a favorite of these rides — a gem.  You leave central Paris by a bike lane, and then by a converted rail bed, the "Viaduct of Arts" and the “Promenade Plantée”, adorned with flowers and bordered by small parks and new apartment neighborhoods .

Promenade Plantée above Viaduc des Arts:
Viaduc des Arts

The Promenade Plantee, 4,5 km long (additional photos available here or in Google images) was began in 1993 on the emplacement of an ancient rail line.  The elevated part, pictured above, which runs along the Avenue Daumesnil, is atop the "Viaduct of Arts", and beneath its 71 arcades are found artists' workshops and art and antique stores.  On the roof above the arcades, and further along, at ground level, are found a succession of pretty flower gardens.  Vou will come across new appartment buildings, unrestricted grass lawns, and playgrounds.

Promenade Plantée near east edge of Paris:
Promenade Plantée

Next you visit a large part of the Bois de Vincennes, a very large park to the east of Paris.  You have the option of shortening your trip by returning to the center of Paris using the bicycle path of the close-in Marne and the Seine (part of Route 3).

One of the riverside lane along the Marne River. Every so often barriers block through automobile traffic.
Marne Lane

Continuing, after crossing through a few blocks of streets with available sidewalks, you arrive at the beautiful Marne River. You follow the Marne for 15 kilometers on scenic riverside lanes with almost no traffic.  The end of the outbound portion is a huge lake with grassy banks, used primarily for what the French call “Aviron” (crew).

You may return to Paris the way you came; or by the shortcut along the close-in Marne and Seine bicycle paths (part of Route 3) or by the Canal de l’Ourcq (Route 1). The Ourcq Canal alternative (which gives a 70 kilometer total ride) makes for a long but interesting day — the very best day circuit both leaving and returning to Paris by bike. The route between the Marne and the Ourcq passes through towns, sleepy villages and farmland.

Destinations:

Because the Marne River is sinuous, while the straighter, Ourcq Canal of Ride 1 aims in the same general direction, and because the riverside lane ends within the Paris suburbs while the Ourcq Canal reaches the countryside, this route is not recommended as a rapid escape route from Paris for a longer bike trip to the Northeast.  None the less, with the shortcut mentioned on the page for Route 3, and with some riding in light to moderate traffic, this is the quickest way if you are heading due east towards Coulommiers, or east-southeast .

Directions:

To print itinerary, select the text below, and choose print selection.

Please follow this link for an explanation of the author's traffic ratings.

Bike Lane near the Bastille:
Bike lane near Bastille

From the Bastille, ride southeast (with the Opera of the Bastille on your left) on Rue de Lyon (bike-bus lane) for 250 m, past where the road forks left. At the traffic light, cross to the left following the bicycle markings, continue in the same direction as before besides a traffic island on your left, and then going left around the island and right onto Avenue Daumesnil. Your bike lane runs on the right side of the street (behind a little barrier), against traffic, with its own stoplights; use great care in crossing these intersections, where oncoming vehicles often turn accross your path. On your left of Avenue Daumesnil, there is a series of similar buildings, with, on the roof, a walkway that crosses the streets below (this is called the Viaduct des Arts). A train line once ran here.

If it is after 8:00 in the morning, and if you are willing to walk your bike for 10 blocks, the author recommends carrying your bike up four flights of stairs to the top of the Viaduct Des Arts, along Avenue Daumesnil.  You will probably want to walk your bicycle on the aerial walkway – which is lined with flowers and which has many interesting views.  The Viaduct runs for 1 kilometer.  – leads to an attractive footbridge over a playground, amidst an apartment complex, and then directly into the bike path at the Allée Vivaldi.

If you decide, rather to stay in the bicycle lane, after the end of the viaduct, the major street, “Rue de Charenton” crosses Avenue Daumesnil at a sharp angle and you pass the Mairie (city hall) of the 12th Arrondissement on your right.  If it is after 8:00 AM (9:00 on weekends) in one block turn left onto Rue Henard (sign:  "Jardin de Reuilly") and right at the next intersection onto the Allée Vivaldi.

Follow the bike path along the Allée Vivaldi past a gate (see below for directions if it is before 8AM or 9AM on weekends, and the gate is locked) through the tunnel, and then along the Promenade Plantée. Pay careful attention to the bike path signs, to avoid the pedestrian paths, as you wind among the flowers and plants.

At the end of the Promenade Plantée, follow the bikeway up a little hill, through the gate, as it turns right , downhill, as it turns left after two blocks, and passes under the Périphérique Highway.  Turn right (south), and continue following the bike path beside the Boulevard de la Guyane to the Bois de Vincennes.  Cross the road at the traffic light in front of Lake Daumesnil..

If it is before 8:00 AM the gates to the Promenade Plantée will be locked, and you will have to miss it. Or perhaps you will wish to take the fastest route out of Paris.  If so, simply continue southeast on Avenue de Daumesnil until the Lac (lake) Dausmenil in the Bois de Vincennes.

No matter how you come, now walk or ride your bike with Lake Daumesnil on the right, either on the path along the lake, bearing left to exit back to the road just before the lake’s "end" (where the shore curves sharply);  or for a faster, less scenic route, on the road which runs near the lake, until the first traffic light.  At this point there is a complex intersection with two lights (see the photo below).  Just to the south of the first light, where the path comes out from the lake just north of where the two roads meet, cross the road using the three pedestrian crossings.  Continue straight ahead on a dirt path for 300 m until the Route des Batteries, and turn left (towards the northeast).  This "road" curves gradually to the right.

The End of Lake Daumesnil (follow the bllue dots) — Click to enlarge.

Route — Bois de Vincinnes : Click to Enlarge

 

When the "Route Des Batteries" starts to curve left after 300 meters (0.2 mi), assuming that you wish to take the shortest and quickest route, and that your bike can handle a slightly rough gravel path (the only non-smooth segment of this trip), proceed as follows:  bear right onto the gravel path behind a barrier, called the Avenue Des Tribunes.  In 600 meters (0.3 - 0.4 mi), at a little triangle, bear right into the paved Route de Tourelles.

If you want to avoid the gravel path, stay on the Route des Batteries as it curves left. The second road merginging in from the right (in 500 m - 0.3 mi) is the Route de la Tourelles. Make a very sharp right turn (almost a u-turn) into this and follow it southwards. (This routing adds about 600 meters to your ride.)

The Route de la Tourelles leads to the southeast corner of the Bois de Vincennes.

 

Directions for Short Loop bikeroute back to Paris:

(After the road has curved left and is going mainly eastward, just before the barrier you will see a sign indicating a bicycle route to the Marne River.  If you wish to return to Paris or ride the Marne Meander route,, follow all the signs.  You will cross the Avenue de Gravelle at a light, the follow along the far side of it, then descend on the Route des Barrières (closed to motor traffic).

Route des Barriers: For short loop back to Paris via the Marne (see Route 3 on this Site).
Route des Barrières
The highway bridge at the end of the Route des Barrières.  Turn left here and pass under the bridge.
The church of Saint-Agnès Gardien:
Eglise Staint-Agnès Gardien

The Route des Barrières curves back to the West. You will come out of the Bois at a road, the D123 in front of a huge highway bridge.  Turn left, go under the bridge, then, when possible, turn right (sign: "Ëglise de Saint-Agnès Gardien"). 


You will arrive at a little square , the "Place de l'Écluse".There is an interesting little neighborhood near this square. To return to Paris along the Marne River, exit the little square on the bike path (sign) at the back right (north-west). The bike path lead along the Marne and the Seine almost to Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris.)  To ride the "Meander of the Marne" from the square, see Route 3.

Continuation of the outbound Marne River Bicycle Route:

Continuing on the long route, you come to a barrier across the Route de la Tourelles, and after this, you may encounter a little light traffic.  With the hippodrome on your left, and just after the little lake on your right, bear right to exit the Bois.

Continue eastward on a wide road (Avenue de Gravelle – light traffic), pass over the freeway, and at the light turn left on a multi-lane road (N4 – light to moderate traffic), which curves right under a rail bridge, and leads in four blocks to a bridge over the Marne River. If you are skittish about the traffic, you may utilize the sidewalks, or avoid the underpass. Cross the bridge, the Pont de Joinville, and, when possible, turn right very sharply (180 degrees), backtracking to the riverside. 

The Marne River:

If you have an odometer, note your reading.  Turn right, head north under the bridge, on an almost traffic-free suburban lane along the Marne River.  Auto barriers every few kilometers eliminate through traffic.  The Marne soon turns east.  You can follow the lane – bike path – along the south side of the Marne for 13 to 16 kilometers (8 miles) - a very pretty ride indeed.

Houses along Marne:
Marne Houses
Hotel along Marne with Marina
Hotel along Marne
Sidewalk by Chez Gengene:
Chez Gengene
Houseboat on the Mrne River:
Houseboat on Marne River
A shell cruises on the Marne:

In the town of Gournay-sur-Marne (after the sinuous river has once again curved sharply back to the east — 13 km), note the bridge which crosses the Marne. If you are planning to cycle to destinations to the east of Paris, it is here that you should leave the route, heading south (see partial directions below) at the end of this page.

Continue along the Marne for another 900 meters (0.5 mi) to a pedestrian bridge. (At this point, an interesting side-trip is possible, which is discussed beginning three paragraphs below.)

Take the pedestrian bridge over the Marne to an island formed by the Marne and a canal. Continue on the south-facing bank of this island in the same direction as before, eventually passing a horse pasture, until the very end, about 2 kilometers. Walk your bike through the gate into the park of the Nautical Basin of Vaires. Ride around the lake in a clockwise direction.

The Nautical Basin of Vaires is the end of this Route, unless you are going to ride the link to Route 1 described below. It is a huge, attractive, open park with a two kilometers-long lake – used by the French national aviron (crew) teams to train.  If you are lucky you will see some racing shells. You may stop for lunch or a snack near the athletic club at the far end; the grass is soft, and there is a nice view of the water. Or you may eat at the club's snack bar (if you did not bring a sandwich), which is entered by going into the brown wooden building and climbing the stairs there.  The snack bar also has a wash room.

Swans in the Nautical Basin of Vaires.
Swans in the VAares basin
Aviron in the Nautical Basin of Vaires:
Aviron in the basin at Vaires
Snack bar and bathroom beside indoor racket courts.
Restaurant at Vaires basin

An interesting side trip from the pedestrian bridge continues straight along the river on the south bank on a smooth gravel lane to the Nestle Headquarters in a beautiful ex-chocolate factory. If taking this extension, at 1.3 kilometers there may be a, pontoon foot bridge that crosses the Marne, but in the summer of 2011 this had been removed, due to the low level of the Marne. It is supposed to be reinstalled in the autumn of 2011, and would provide direct access to the Nautical Basin after you have visited the Nestle site.

Pedestrian Bridge over the Mrne

(Thanks to Brian Ogilvie for providing up to date information used in this and the following paragraph.) The lane continues into the Park de Noisiel (where cyclists are tolerated, though theoretically not permitted) for another 1.4 kilometers to the ex-chocolate factory, now a "protected site" (exterior architecture cannot be changed), and presently the Nestle headquarters in France. 

Nestle Headquarters in an old chocolate factory:
Nestle Building in old chocolate factory

When the path emerges at a road, turn left to a parking lot.  A wooden bridge, which may be closed by a low chain,  aparently to prevent vehicular traffic, crosses to an island.  You can cross the bridge on foot, with or without your bike, and follow the path to the viewpoint, then on to the scenic rapids.

If you are continuing around the full circuit via the Ourcq (Route 1), I would suggest that you should go back the way you came, to the pontoon bridge (if open) or the pedestrian bridge,  and cross there to the park of the Nautical Basin of Vaires. Doing so allows you to make the attractive ride along the basin, and watch any races in progress.

Alternatively, if you are returning to Paris the way you came, by the Marne, you could continue from the mill in the same direction. Ride on the road. Turn right (south), go left (at the T), right again (to the traffic circle) and left on the Boulevard du Moulin de Douvre, which leads to a large traffic circle in about 1.5 kilometers . Turn left crossing the Marne on the Route de Torcy, and turn left at the traffic circle and again left into the park of the Nautical Basin of Vaires. Return to Paris by riding along the north side and west side of the basin, exiting through the gate and continuing two kilometers to the pedestrian bridge.

Return to Paris or Continuation:

Toreturn directly to Paris, you may (1) backtrack the way you came – about 30 kilometers; or (2) backtrack as far as the Pont de Joinville bridge over the Marne, and take the bicycle paths of the close Marne and the Seine back to central Paris — about 30 kilometers. Or, alternatively you may continue, with a longer circuit that leads back to Paris via low traffic roads through towns, a village, the countryside, and the Ourcq canal – about 36 kilometers from the Athletic Club at Vaires to the Bastille, 38 km to Notre Dame .

(1) If backtracking the way you came, when you arrive at Joinville-le-Pont just before the big bridge, turn left, then 180 degrees right, to gain the bridge.  After crossing this, and after passing under the rail bridge, take the first right on Route de la Pyramide, which enters the Bois de Vincennes.  Take the second left at Route de la Ferme, which becomes Route de la Tourelle. Cross behind the barrier. Retrace your path through the Bois, under the Périphérique, and into Paris.

(2) For variety and a shortcut (in time), you can link to the close-in bicycle paths along the Marne and Seine detailed in Itinerary 3 that leads back to central Paris.  To do so, after crossing the Marne by the Pont de Joinville, leave the N4 road by angling right when this starts to descends to pass under a bridge.  Immediately turn left on the Rue de Paris.  After 300 meters, at the traffic light, turn right.  Descend the steep hill.and cross over the Avenue St. Maurice du Valais. You will see the underground canal that bypasses the 13 kilometer long Marne Meander emerging from its tunnel in front of you. Immediately turn right onto the Rue du Maréchal Leclerc, and continue through the traffic circle. Turn left at the second permitted turn, one block before the huge highway overpass, and ride one block to a little square. There is an interesting little neighborhood near this square. From the right-rear (northwest) of this square the Marne bike path follows the Marne River (and the Seine) directly into central Paris. The bike path lanes lead almost to Notre Dame. (See Itinerary #3 “Meander of the Marne” for details of the itinerary in the oposite direction .)

Directions for the Marne to Ourcq Loop:

If you have decided to take the longer loop ride via the Ourcq, continue
east from the athletic club (away from Paris), existing the grounds on
a driveway that turns north. You will exit through a gate, then cross
a small driveway/parking area. Bear right (east) at the road. At the
next traffic circle you have the choice of 1) entering the traffic
circle and following the loop to cross the canal bridge in the traffic
lane, or 2) follow the bike path which stops at the bridge sidewalk,
and ride or walk across the bridge on the sidewalk (there is a barrier
in the middle of the road that will prevent you from entering the
traffic lane at this point). If you follow the traffic lane, take the
first right at the bottom of the bridge. If you cross on the sidewalk,
there is a cross street at the bottom of the bridge. Use the traffic
light to cross the canal road. [Thanks to EricAplyn for providing the updated text above.] You will now be on the Rue de Torcy
(heading northeast at a 45 degree angle from the bridge) – keep riding in the same direction), which, with two jogs (bear left, then right each time).  The road becomes the Chemin de Gué de Launay.  After crossing a  rail bridge (the main rail line from Paris to Strasbourg), you will reach, at a traffic circle, an important highway (RN34).

Cyclists on an outing near Pomponnette:
Cyclists near Pomponette 

At the traffic circle, turn right (bike lane), go only 150 meters (0.1 mi) along this major road, then turn left (cross the traffic lanes carefully) at the sign for Pomponnette onto a very calm road (rue de la Libération).  Bear left when possible, heading straight north (Chemin des Grès).  The street merges with Rue de Villevaudé, and curves left.  Turn right (north) at Route de Brou, cross the bridge over the superhighway, cross the next highway (Route de Lagny — note the green bike lanes), and continue through farmland (the road is now called rue Fréderic Lève) on a minor road, bearing left up a long hill (the only one on this circuit - the street is now called Grande Rue) into Villevaudé. The street curves right (north).

Cornfields near Villevaudé:
Cornfields near Villevaudé

After the village, when the street hits a highway, turn left for one block to the traffic circle.  Cross D34, taking D105 to the northwest through fields, then trees, first slightly uphill, then steeply downhill (light-moderate traffic).

Cyclist at Rond-point (rotary) near the high point between the Marne and the Ourcq Canal:
Cyclists at Circle

Cross under the superhighway; at the traffic circle continue straight (Route de Villevaudé, pass under a highway, then, when your road makes a right turn, bear left (sign:  “Parisis—Centre Cultural Jacques Prevert”).  At the light in 200 meters, turn right (north) onto Rue de la République, which becomes Avenue General De Gaulle (light traffic).  The continual downhill grade takes you north and northwest through the town of Villeparasis (very light traffic).  (At the traffic light in two blocks, stores sell groceries and fruit.)

  Continue straight.  At the traffic circle by the school, turn left and immediately right (keeping the school on your right) - sign: “Marché”.  After 1.2 km (0.7 mi), at the “do not enter” sign, turn left for one block, then turn right; ride through the market place for two blocks, until the canal. (On Sunday until 1 PM, a large outdoor market takes place, and you will have to walk your bike through the crowds.)  Turn left onto the Ourcq bicycle path just at the beginning of the bridge.

The Ourcq Canal Back to Paris:

.When riding the Ourcq bicycle path in the westerly direction, ride slowly down the steeper inclines. Along the south bank, always choose to ride to the left, up on the hill; the pedestrian path (tow path) goes straight ahead by the canal.

At the point where the path appears to make a complete U-turn to the left, you should turn moderately left into the forest. At the end of the forest entrance path, you turn right, parallel to the canal, and at the end of this you turn right again to regain the Canal.

You eventually cross to the right (north) side of the canal. The path veers right away from the canal, and follows beside a rail yard for a kilomèter, before swinging left back to waterside. You might wish to walk your bike over a few short sections with rough pavement. Close to Paris, you cross back to the left (south) bank, and just before Paris you turn left, right, right and left to pass around a cement plant. You pass under the highway and enter the Vilette Park.

In Paris, after passing the Géode ball, in the Villette Park, stay close to the water, keeping straight, along the canal.  Follow the bike path, beside the street (with one jog), until it ends, at complicated multi-street intersection with an elevated metro line.  Here you need to pick up the bike lane on the street on the west (right) side of the Canal Saint Martin that lies more or less in a direct line from where you were coming.  To do so you ou will have to walk your bike across three or four intersections.  The best bet to do is to ignore the markings and  to cross to the right, then to the left.  The Canal St. Martin bike lane, first on the right, then on the left, leads to the Bastille. Be very careful in this lane of obstructions and careless pedestrians.  Near the Bastille, on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, an outdoor market takes place on Saturday, until 7:30 PM and on Sunday until 3 PM.  The street is clogged, so you will either need to walk your bicycle, or make a detour through back streets.

Continuation of Marne Route to the East:

To bike out of Paris to the East [route from the study of maps] , from the Gourmay-sur-Marne bridge 13 km from Paris, cross the road (D104) and ride south away from the bridge, branching left after about 3 km.  (This road is called successively Avenue Paul Doumier, Avenue des Champs, Avenue des Princes, Avenue des Pyramides.) (You can cut the angle — see this city map on  Google.) Turn left  (east) on the minor east-west running road that becomes D217b, and follow it to Guermantes, the follow D10 accross the Autoroute, and then D88 to Villeneuve-St.-Dennis.  Now follow little roads that you will have traced out in the Grand Morin River valley to Coulommiers.

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