We are officially official. Our VélôToulouse cards came in the mail this week, so now we have our city wheels and the freedom that comes with them!
If you’ve been following my blog regularly, you might have picked up on the fact that I find riding around on a bike (especially if a skirt and baguette are involved) very romantic. Now that we’re riding bikes more I have to admit that, not only is it dreamy, but very practical as well—especially living right in the heart of Toulouse.
Toulouse is a good-sized, pedestrian-friendly city with a respectable public transportation system, but bikes open up a whole new world of both pleasure and convenience.
When we first moved here, we debated seeing if we could rent bikes from a shop or if we could get a subscription to VélôToulouse, the local city bike company. It didn’t make sense to buy a bike if we’d only have to sell it when we move in a few months and we didn’t really have a good spot to store rental bikes, so we opted to go the city bike route. We were able to get a year subscription for 25€, giving us access to the 253 VélôToulouse stations (which are approximately every 300 meters) across the city.
If you’re considering visiting Toulouse or if you are moving here for work, a bike is such a great way to get around. Not only is it quicker than going on foot alone, you can easily navigate some of the very narrow streets in the older parts of town (many of which are restricted to cars anyway). Plus it’s much easier to find bike racks than parking spaces.
Bus lanes on the road are marked for bikes, making it easy and pretty safe to ride right on the street (which is good because the sidewalks can get pretty congested) and if you are out for a Sunday ride (like we were this past weekend), there’s a beautiful, paved bike path that runs right along the Canal du Midi.
Each of the bikes is equipped with a basket (perfect for that baguette) and has three speeds. Occasionally you come across a bike that has a flat tire or broken chain, but the bikes are really well maintained in general. We’ve actually seen people out checking the bikes in the morning for any needed repairs.
Accessing the service is pretty simple. You can subscribe online like we did and get a pass good for a single day to a full year. You can also rent bikes directly at the stations. The only hitch is that you need a card with a chip and pin to pay at the stations (unfortunately our credit card company has been very slow in adopting this technology), so it’s better to sign up online if your card doesn’t have this yet.
Once you successfully rent your bike, you can ride it around for 30 minutes for no additional charge. If you go over the 30 minutes, you are charged for the extra time (approximately 1€ per hour depending on the length of your subscription—rates are slightly higher for single day tickets). Today I also learned there are 10 stations where you can get a bonus 15 minutes for free if you return a bike there!
You might be wondering how you can make sure there’s a station near your destination—and that there are spaces to drop your bike. We use an app called AllBikesNow which actually works with city bike systems all around the world. It’s great because we can see where all the stations are, which ones have bikes and which ones have space to park.
Cycling everywhere is definitely one of the parts I love most about living in Toulouse. I’m not sure where we’ll be next and what access we’ll have to bikes there, but for now we are taking as much advantage of our VélôToulouse subscription as possible.
It’s funny, we don’t drive a car except for Matt going to work or unless we are heading out of town for the weekend, so I can go weeks at a time just on foot and, now, on bike. Not only is it a wonderful way to live, it’s also a great way to combat the calories from all of those baguettes we bring back in our baskets.