Nice has Velo Bleu self-service rental bikes on every corner: 175 stations with 1,750 bikes. For 1€ a day you can use the bikes as often as you like for 30 minutes a pop. Take a bike from one stand, leave it at another… it’s easy and super convenient if you know how to do it, and super frustrating if you don’t.
The Cost You can get an access code for 1€ a day, 5€ for a week, 10€ a month, or 25€ a year… (and the best deal: if you already have a yearly bus pass, you can add the Velo Bleu to it for just 15€).
This gives you the right to use any bike, anywhere, as often as you want, for 30 minutes at a time for free. If you go over the free 30 minutes, the next 30 costs you 1€, and each hour after that is 2€.
- Insider tip: If you are going far, just return the bike before the 30 minutes are up, and then immediately take another. You can look on the map or on the smartphone app to plan ahead and see where you can switch them out.
There are 4 ways to Sign Up:
- On the Web Click here to fill out the on-line form then you can use your cellphone to access the bikes (with a free call because it doesn’t pick up). This is the easiest way if you can plan ahead. For month or year passes they send you your card by mail.
- At Any Bike Station with Your Cellphone You call the number (04 3000 3001), punch in your credit card info, and voila. After that, each time you want to get a bike, you call the number, which is free as it never even picks up the call, so there is no charge for using your phone after the initial set up.
- NEW! At Certain Bike Stations Pay with your Credit Card There are now a few bike stations that take credit cards, so you don’t even need a phone, which means no more expensive international calls for tourists. (This only works if you have a credit card with a microchip, it’s a no-go for Americans: the machines don’t swipe) You can by the 1€ one day pass or the 5€ week pass, and you can also buy access to multiple bikes at the same time, which is great for couples or families. The bike stations that take credit cards are:
- Train stations: Nice-ville, Riquier, and Saint-Laurent-du-Var
- Place Massena
- The Promenade at Gambetta
- Cagnes-sur-Mer at the beach
- … and coming mid-March: Jean-Jaures, and another at Quai des Etats-Unis, on either side of the Old Town, and one on the Prom near the airport.
- or…(for monthly or yearly passes) Go to a Velo Bleu Office The downside it that it takes time to go there, but the plus is that you get your card on the spot. The office is located on Avenue Thiers across from the Nice Train Station and they’re open from 8am-7pm M-F and until 3pm on Saturdays.
- Insider tip: turn on two screens at the same time… they take a long time to warm up, and if for some reason one doesn’t work, you saves a lot of time if you have a second one already warmed up.
The directions are in several languages and are easy to follow: if you have a Velo Bleu card you just wave it over the sensor, if you have a code you enter it, otherwise you call the number on your cellphone (the call won’t pick up, so there is no charge). Here are the instructions in English from the Velo Bleu site with little diagrams.
- Insider tip: The only tricky thing is that when it shows you your choice of the three bikes, you need to enter the number corresponding with your choice… if there is only one bike attached to the bourne, you still need to enter that number, even if it’s obvious. In the beginning I almost blew a gasket because I thought it was telling me to take bike #2 but then the bike would not unlock… only later realizing that I had to press the number 2 to make it unlock.
In the final step, the screen will give you the combination for the bike lock in case you need to secure the bike up for a while… it’s a good idea to note this, or turn the lock to that number right then. Just so you know, if you lose the bike, you’re on the hook for 150€.
The seat easily adjusts, the little bell comes in very handy, and there are three speeds… off you go!
Returning the Bike Just like before, turn on two screens, just in case. You tell it you are returning a bike, choose which hole you want to put the cable in, hold it in tight for a few seconds, then when it tells you, give it a pull to make sure it caught. If not, you might want to go to that next screen that you’ve conveniently already warmed up! Because this can take a few minutes, try to return (or switch out) your bike at around the 25 minute mark: if you cut it too close and the bike won’t lock, you can start to get very steamed.
- Insider tip: Know your destination bike stand in advance by looking on this map: what you want to avoid is being on minute 28 and you can’t find a stand. Now, say you get there and the stand is full: no empty spaces! It’s good to have a second stank in mind just in case, but otherwise just turn on a screen, chose ‘Find a Stand’ and it will show you a map of the closest… at this point it will give you another 15 minutes free if you pass your Velo Bleu card over the sensor or call the number with your cellphone (again, they won’t pick up, so the call is free). The free Velo Bleu iPhone app is great way to avoid all this stress as it not only shows you the closest stand, but how many bikes and how many empty spaces it has.
Essential Sites and Maps
- The official Velo Bleu site in English
- The free must-have Velo Bleu app for iPhone and Mobile Site for Smartphones
- The best most up-to-date Bike Station Map
- A Real-Time Map with what’s currently available at each station
Bike Rental – the Old Fashioned Way
If you don’t want the hassle of dealing with the Velo Bleus, you can just pop into Scoty’s Bike Rental in Old Nice and rent a bike by the day or week, starting at 15€.
- Here’s an awesome Bike Path Map from BikeMap.net
The city has added 80 kilometres of new bike lanes in the last year, and continues at this pace with a goal of full coverage by 2015, …so biking in Nice just keeps getting better and better.
But at the same time, Nice’s drivers are among the rudest in France, so be really careful, and stick to the bike lanes whenever possible. And just so you know, as sweet as it seems, technically it is illegal to ride your bike on the tram tracks, and from time to time the police make a big show of writing a bunch of tickets, so ride that pristine highway at your own risk!
- Back up to main Go/Transport page