Villo!: Brussels’ Bike-rental System

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’!

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10 thoughts on “Villo!: Brussels’ Bike-rental System

  1. I agree with C above. The system, at least in Nice is geared for the locals. You have to register online and enter credit card details etc. not easy when you are just visiting. Or maybe I’m missing something.

    • Nice is different from what I remember. Not tourist friendly…which is odd for that city. The Brussels (and Paris) one is easy.

      1. Buy a day with your credit/debit card (right at the ‘station’).
      2. Rent your bike.
      3. After that, every bike you take during your rental period is simply gotten with the number they give you the first time. Quite simple.

      • I never had problems in Paris, but the terminals in Brussels don’t seem to like my card, my face or something… I have to say, you’ve been quite fortunate with the weather so far.

  2. The gateway appears to be some sort of a victory arch, which begs the question, what do the Belgians have to be victorious about? Surely this isn’t a monument to cyclocross, is it?

    • As I was leaving the train station yesterday morning I glanced at the Belgian newspaper selection. On the front page of all of them were the results of the Cyclocross Worlds. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they built a few Victory gates, too!

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