It’s been three months since I ditched my metro card for Vélo’v, Lyon’s bike-sharing network. I learned how to bike when I was a kid, but I haven’t rolled on two wheels much since the early 90s. (Apart from the terrifying Vélib incident in Paris of 2013.)
[Note: Vélo’v and Vélib get their names from the word vélo, which means bike in French.]
But it turns out that I love the Vélo’v system in Lyon. There are a lot of bike lanes and bike paths, so I feel safe most of the time, and since there are so many Vélo’v stations, it gives you a freedom that you don’t get when you’re confined to the metro. I just pick a bike and go. Plus, now that I don’t live in a fifth-floor walk-up anymore, I have to get in some exercise so I don’t feel guilty about taking the elevator when I get home. (To the second floor. Just because I can.)
It’s not all rainbows on wheels, though. Here are a few situations where my vé-love turns to vé-loathe:
- At 8:30 a.m. when there are no bikes anywhere – the early birds took them all.
- At 6 p.m. when everyone is having apéro on Presqu’île and there are no open spots at the Vélo’v stations to park my bike. It’s worse than looking for a parking spot!
- When the bike seat is too high and refuses to budge to where I can actually reach the pedals, no matter how hard I whack it. (I’ve learned that twisting it back and forth is a better method than whacking. I’ve also learned that violently whacking the seat of a bicycle in an attempt to lower it makes you look crazy.)
- When pedestrians amble across the bike path like dazed cattle who have wandered out of their pasture. I am not a skilled cyclist; it would be much easier for them to wait for a second than it is for me to brake abruptly and wait for them to saunter by while I wobble precariously, trying not to fall off my bike.
- Oh yeah, falling off my bike. That happened this week. I have banged up hands, knees, and elbow (the right one) and a bruise the size of an avocado on my leg. It started out pink, turned purple, and today it’s black. I actually put off my visit to the préfecture because I didn’t want to sit on the sidewalk for five hours with that bruise!
But still, Vélo’v pass is ridiculously affordable (it only costs 25€ for the entire year. That’s opposed to 60€ per month for public transport) and it’s a fun way to get around when the weather’s nice. If you’re comfortable on two wheels, this might just be the way to go.
How it works:
First, you buy a pass at one of the many red Vélo’v stations.
One-day pass: €1.50
Three-day pass: €3
Week-long pass: €5
Annual pass: €25, or €15 if you’re under 25 (Annual passes must be set up online.)
The first 30 minutes of each ride are free (60 minutes with certain passes), and then there’s a small extra charge per hour. But you can just switch out your bike for a new one at any station to avoid paying extra.
Keep in mind: At peak times, it may be difficult to find an available bike or an available parking space.
For more information, visit www.velov.grandlyon.com.
Have you ever used a bike sharing system? What did you think?