Like the rest of France, Lille has a long tradition of bicycle racing but is still under-developed when it comes to the use of bicycles as a means of daily transportation.
In 2013 I was surprised to learn that only 2 % of journeys in Lille were done by bicycle, which is pitiful when you consider that even Frankfurt am Main claims to have reached 15 %, not to mention places like Münster, Copenhagen or Groningen, where bicycles are the routine form of everyday transport.
Since Lille is flat and has a large student population, it certainly has the potential to increase its modal share of cycling, and the city administration has set a goal of 10 % to be reached by the year 2020.
A limiting factor is the climate. It really does rain a lot in Lille. On one of the days when I was there it rained constantly from morning to night, so hard that even I decided not to cycle because I didn’t want to go to the opera in wet shoes.
Lille has an active bicycle society called A.D.A.V. Droit au Vélo which lobbies for improvements in everyday urban cycling.
Lille’s bike sharing system V’Lille has been operational since September 2011. I tried it in October 2013 and found it very useful and easy to use, just like Vélo’v in Lyon and the first-generation Vélib’ in Paris, which at that time was still in operation.
The cost of V’Lille as of 2018 is € 1.60 for a 24-hour subscription, € 7.20 for seven days or € 37.00 for one year. For the first half hour of each journey there is no extra charge, but after that it costs one Euro for each additional half hour. You can subscribe online at https://www.transpole.fr/fr/108-v-lille, which is what I did, or on the street at one of the V’Lille stations that has a computer with a card reader for credit or debit cards.
In 2013 I listed some differences between the systems in Paris and Lille, but noted they were of little concern to the short-term user. The main differences were:
- V’Lille does not give any extra minutes for riding a bike up to higher altitudes, for the simple reason that in Lille there aren’t any higher altitudes. Lille is completely flat.
- V’Lille is not run by a private company, as in Paris and Lyon, but by the public transport authority Transpole. (This is probably a good solution, especially considering the 2018 Vélib’ debacle in Paris.)
- The specially designed V’Lille bikes are not built in far-away Hungary, but by a local company in Lille, so as to support the local economy and provide local employment.
- V’Lille provides not only spontaneous short-term rentals on the street, but also long-term rentals for people who want to keep the bike at home. (Paris used to do this, too, but independently of Vélib’ under the name of Roue Libre.)
My photos in this post are from 2013. I revised the text in 2018.
See also: A rainy day at Place de Roubaix in Paris.