Before leaving home, I took out a seven-day subscription to VéloCité, Besançon’s bicycle sharing system, at their website www.velocite.besancon.fr/. This cost me all of two Euros — exactly a quarter of what it cost in Paris at that time. As of 2019, the price for a seven-day subscription in Paris has gone up from eight to fifteen Euros, but the price in Besançon has remained unchanged at two Euros.
VéloCité turned out to be very similar to the first-generation Vélib’ system in Paris and almost an exact clone of Vélo’v in Lyon. This is no wonder since at the time all three were run by the same company, JCDecaux.
In Besançon there are thirty VéloCité stations, mainly in the city center but also in the nearby districts of Battant and Chaprais.
As in Paris and Lyon, the first half hour of each ride is free, but in Besançon they advertise a unique feature, namely that after 25 minutes of use the bike supposedly “rings” to let you know that the end of the free period is near. This sounds like a great idea, but I must admit that I never heard one of the bikes “ring”, though I did have some rides that were longer than 25 minutes.
This is the VéloCité computer and info column at station # 1, in front of the Viotte train station. Since this station is slightly uphill from the city center, it is designated as a Bonus Station, meaning that if you start from a lower station, ride uphill and dock your bike at this station, your account is credited with an extra fifteen minutes for one of your future rides.
This is a station I used quite often, since it was not far from my hotel. My one and only problem with VéloCité happened here, when I tried to dock a bike and a red light came on, showing that the return of the bike had not been registered. This had happened to me once before, in Paris, and happened again a few months later in Bordeaux. My theory is that this happened when the metal tongue on the bike had been bent in some way, but it could also be that I just hadn’t shoved it in hard enough. In any case, I phoned 01 30 79 28 88 and told them what had happened. They wanted to know the station number, the bike number and the dock number. Soon they fixed the problem and the light on the docking point turned green. If this happens to you, it is important to call them right away, so you don’t get charged for the bike. (They also have English speaking operators, in case you don’t feel like explaining it in French.)
The new system in Paris, Vélib’ Metropole, has a different locking system, so this particular problem appears to have been solved.
During my stay in Besançon there was a two-day bicycle festival at the Place de la Révolution, organized by an association called Vélocampus. This was the 18th edition of the Fête du Vélo, which is traditionally held on the first weekend of June. They said they chose the Place de la Révolution as the main location for the bicycle festival “because it is, in our opinion, the best place to promote sustainable mobility. Every day this square is crossed by thousands of people on foot or by bicycle, and soon by tram.”
From Besançon there are pleasant, paved, car-free bicycle routes along the Doubs River, leading both upstream and down.
Some of these are included in the long-distance bicycle route EuroVelo 6, which leads from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, starting at Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of France.
An unusual feature of this route is that it almost entirely follows almost entirely along rivers and canals such as the Loire, the Canal du Centre, the Saone and the Doubs in France, the Rhine in Switzerland and then the Danube through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria.
My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2019.