The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Cycling in Nice - using a vélo bleu

Cycling along the seafront, along the splendid Promenade des Anglais in Nice, looking out across the dazzling azure sea, is one of our favourite family activities.  No longer do we have to faff around fixing the bike rack to the car to load up our own bikes, we simply rent a vélo bleu.  Vélo bleu, quite literally blue bike, is the name given to the city’s public bike share scheme, along the lines of Velib’ in Paris and “Boris bikes” in London.  While they may technically be Nice’s bikes, the network extends as far as St Laurent du Var and Cagnes sur Mer, which makes it even more convenient for us to use as we don’t have to drive into Nice to start our bike ride.  Here's a map which shows all the bike stands.

vélo bleu bike share Nice Côte dAzur

 
So how do you use a vélo bleu?

The first time you rent a vélo bleu it can be confusing and a little frustrating, but as long as you’re not in a rush it’s not actually as hard as it seems.  You have to register, and this can either be done well beforehand online if you are planning on using the bikes a lot or at one of the bike stands with a mobile phone and credit card at the ready.  The instructions are on the screen and come in several languages including English. 

The first time you register you will have to make a call (to a French number) which will be charged but from then on you use your phone to dial a number which doesn’t pick up, so you are not charged again.  You will have to give a credit card number which is then used for every subsequent rental.

registering vélo bleu

There are also several bike stations where you can pay directly with your credit card thereby avoiding the (expensive foreign) phone call.  These are located in the following places:

Place Massena

Ave Jean Médecin at Nice Etoile shopping centre

Promenade des Anglais at Bld Gambetta

Quai des Etats-Unis

Bld Jean Jaurés at Cathédrale tram stop

Promenade des Anglais on the city side of the airport near where the beach starts

Nice-ville, Riquier and St Laurent du Var train stations

Bld de la Plage, Cagnes sur Mer near the sailing club (on the St Laurent side)

vélo bleu Nice France

 
How much does it cost?

The subscriptions are:  1€ a day, 5€ a week, 10€ a month or 25€ a year (or 15€ if you already have a Ligne d’Azur yearly bus pass).

To use the bike:  30 mins free, next 30 mins 1€ and then 2€ an hour after that.

After paying the subscription/registration it can be entirely free if you use the bike strategically because you get 30 mins free each time you take a bike.  This means you return the bike every 25 minutes or so and take a new one, though it’s a bit of a palaver if you’re just “going for a ride” as opposed to using it to get around.  If you do want to do this do not leave it till the last minute as not only do the machines take a while to turn on but you might find the stand is full or out of order and you have to go to another one.  There are maps and an iPhone app to help plan your route and find stations with spaces/bikes available (but annoyingly for Android users like me, no app yet).

vélo bleu on Prom

 
Getting your bike:

The terminals can take a long time to warm up, or can sometimes be out of order, so it’s a good idea to turn on more than one at a time.  Check the tires and whether the seat goes up and down easily before you make a selection. 

Once the terminal has turned on follow the instructions on the screen, either scanning your pre-paid card or ringing the phone number as instructed.  It will ask you to choose a bike even if there is only one bike in the stand so press the corresponding number 1, 2 or 3 for the bike you want.  This should release the lock.  You will now be given the combination code for the lock which you should note down or immediately set the code so you can use it later if necessary.

Promenade des Anglais vélo bleu

 
Returning the bike:

Once again, turn on more than one terminal and press “restituer” (return) and you will be told which number to return the cable to.  Push it in and check that it clicks in place and cannot be pulled out. If this doesn’t work, move to another terminal and try again.  The screen will display the total cost of your rental.

TOP TIP!

If you arrive at your destination stand to find it full, turn on the screen and press “find a stand” which will show you a map of the closest stand.  If you now call the number or scan your card you will get another 15 mins free.

vélo bleu end of rental message

The free vélo bleu iPhone app and official vélo bleu map both have real time availability and number of stands empty to help you plan your ride.  The VELO BLEU website explains everything with clear diagrams, maps and pictograms (in French).

Don't forget to stick to the highway code, it's illegal to ride on pavements and tramlines and bicycles must respect traffic lights.  Pedestrians have right of way.  Officially you should be over 14 years old to use vélo bleu.

beach restaurant Nice French Riviera

So now you see how cheap and easy it is to rent a bike in Nice, you too can explore the coast like us, stopping for drinks and snacks at seaside cafés.  One time, on an ordinary Sunday in March, we ducked into the back streets in Cros de Cagnes (the old fishing village of Cagnes sur Mer) and found a delicious simple café away from the tourist hordes.  Enjoying a pizza and Italian beer in the sun, with our rental bikes, made us feel like we were on a mini holiday ourselves.  So simple and yet so rejuvenating.

café Cros de Cagnes

Do you like cycling en famille?  Have you ever used bikes from a city bike share scheme?  What are you waiting for?

 

Read more about the Seaside Promenade, Côte d'Azur in this related post.

 

PIN this for later!

renting vélo bleu bikes in Nice

 

 

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Comments

  • Guest
    Janine Wednesday, 19 July 2017

    Nice post (oh a terrible pun!)... I love Nice and next time I go, I'm going to get me a bike to ride!

  • Guest
    Lyn @ a Hole in my Shoe Friday, 07 April 2017

    What a great way to see the beauty in Nice for those you enjoy cycling. Lovely photos

  • Guest
    Richard Thursday, 06 April 2017

    I don't think I'm bright enough to gain the PhD in Applied Cycle Rent Technology that is clearly required to enable one to have a ride!

  • Guest
    Wilbur Thursday, 06 April 2017

    What a bargain! Great way to get around and a ride down promenade des anglais sounds fabulous.

  • Guest
    Ting at MTM Wednesday, 05 April 2017

    Much like our Boris bikes in London, I think they are a great way to get about and so easy to use. What a lovely way to spend some family time together cycling the promenade! Thanks for linking up with #CityTripping

  • Guest
    Catherine Wednesday, 05 April 2017

    What can I say? Go for it. I know you do.

  • Guest
    Rosie @GreenRosieLife Wednesday, 05 April 2017

    I love your tip for getting the bikes for free if you swap them every half an hour! Mind you the charges are really reasonable which I hope means this scheme will grow and grow in popularity. It is also lovely to see the beach that I sunbathed on 28 years ago. Shhhh - don't tell anyone but I went topless and got told off my an elderly French resident!!

    Thank you so much for linking up to my #GoingGreenLinky and I would love to see some more posts about green tourism in PACA.

  • Guest
    Rosie @GreenRosieLife Saturday, 29 April 2017

    The next #GoingGreenLinky opens on Mon May 1st and I hope you can join up again ⯑⯑

  • Guest
    http://Karen Wednesday, 05 April 2017

    Such lovely photos. My husband uses a similar scheme in London, to get from the station he gets off the train at, to cycle to work at his office. I think he'd much prefer the cycle in Nice though, much prettier!! It's a good system, though to get people cycling or if you don't want to bring your own bike!

  • Guest
    Ruth Wednesday, 05 April 2017

    What a bargain! I love to bike and doing it in a new city has become a favorite thing to do. You cover a lot of ground and got to see certain places that are not easy to reach by foot. #citytripping

  • Guest
    Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays Tuesday, 04 April 2017

    So much better than lugging your own bikes with you. Great idea thank you for flagging this up #CityTripping

  • Guest
    Elizabeth Tuesday, 04 April 2017

    This looks so fun. We live in the Netherlands and love riding our bikes. We have used the public bike shares in a few other places, but having access near the beach would be amazing. Thanks for sharing. #CityTripping

  • Guest
    Jane @ Raincity Librarian Tuesday, 04 April 2017

    Oh that blue sky and even more blue water!!! We have a similar bike sharing program here in Vancouver, too, which started up just recently. Though, we have bike helmet laws here, so if a policeman catches you biking without a helmet, he can give you a ticket!!

  • Guest
    Lolo Tuesday, 04 April 2017

    Looks absolutely ideal and my kind of day! Pinned for future reference! Nice is getting higher and higher of my list because of you!!! #CityTripping

  • Guest
    Hilary Monday, 03 April 2017

    We have a similar bike program here, and its great, especially when guests come to town! These photos are so wonderful, and I love the blue blue water with the blue bikes!

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Guest Friday, 20 October 2017

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