Bike-share programs in Europe

Nordic cool (bikes and girls) at the Oslo Opera House © Barb Sligl
The best way to tour a European city? Get on a bike…

Vive le vélo! When in Paris or Lyon, Berlin, Barcelona, Oslo, Bucharest…to name just a few forward-thinking European cities, hop on a public rental bike. I did, in the City of Light, and felt a certain je ne sais quoi with my hair blowing as I pedalled alongside the Seine, as if a local, mais, bien sûr

In Paris there are 1,800 stations (and some 23,600 bikes) in the program called Vélib (a cross between the French words for bike, vélo, and freedom, liberté). What better way to discover a new city? In Oslo, even the sloped roof lines of the Opera House are bike friendly, a runway of sorts for Scandinavian chic (as per above) and the design-worthy blue Bysykkel (now in an even cooler, bolder incarnation).

In Lyon, you’ll find the signature silver-and-red Vélo’v bikes at self-serve depots about every 300 meters—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One of the first European cities to adopt the bike-share program, Lyon has had 80 million bike rentals since its inception. Formidable! It’s a concept that’s caught on with locals and visitors alike—from France to Romania. I noted Bucharest’s bright-yellow I’Velo Urban stations while there recently (and plenty of dedicated bike lanes…so civilized in a city that was once called Little Paris).

Most of the city-bike programs even offer the first 30 minutes free…for what may be the most efficient, savvy and fun way to get around and tour fab European cities. It’s, as the French call it, la Vélorution! Φ

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