I often gloat about living in a country that has a rich cycling past and vélo-friendly culture. And it’s true, I do, but when it comes to our city, we suck the hind you-know-what. Nîmes is positioned wonderfully for cycling outside its borders, but riding inside is another matter altogether.
Many civilized cities in the world have excellent and cheap bike-rental systems, coupled with excellent and organized infrastructure. Brussels, you will probably guess by now, is one of them.
Their system is, as far as I can tell, exactly the same as Velib in Paris. You pay by credit card at the bike ‘station’ for the duration you choose (1 day, 7 days, etc), get a card with your magic number printed on it, and choose your bike. If you drop that bike off at another station in the next 30 min., you pay nothing extra (the base price is 1.60 euros a day). If you go over, you pay a nominal fee of around .50 euros per hour.
We rented our bikes in the morning, rode to breakfast, picked up the same bikes after (if you’re lucky, nobody has taken ‘yours’), rode to visit an abbey, parked them, rode, parked, etc. till our day was done. All along the route we had dedicated cycling lanes, and cars were more than considerate of us. Oh, and it was sunny, which always helps.
If you’re ever in a town with a rental scheme like this, do yourself a favor and try it out. It’s the best way to see the town…and as Coach would say, you can clock it as ‘training’!