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In an increasing number of French towns, you may find guarded cycle parking , for a fee , with cycle hire, in the station or nearby. In some cases, like Amiens or Bordeaux, the velostation is not so close to the train station, but if you are not a commuter, it will not be a problem for you.
Prices vary from town to town. Velostations may be run by an association, a municipality, a transport company or a private society.
Just to name a few, you will find a velostation in Amiens, Annecy, Bordeaux, Chambéry, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, La Rochelle, Lille, Nancy, Nantes, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Strasbourg, Toulouse, some stations on the RATP-SNCF network in the Paris region (Paris Bastille, Versailles, Neuilly-Plaisance...).
In some cases, the velostation will propose other convienient services, like city map, information on the city urban transports and ticket sale, bike coding . In Toulouse o Angers, you may even buy a combined public transport + bike ticket.
There may also be a repair service for customers’ bikes. In some case, the parking annual fee includes bike maintenance for commuters : a flat tyre or a broken wire will be fixed for the next day.
In France, in 2007, the number of places vary from 0 to 1250 per station. Even if the parking lot is secured, parking spots are generally not individually secured : bring your own lock for your bike - have a look at our locks break tests . Check for opening hours before taking an early or late train.
A few velostations, such as Toulouse and Amiens, have closed areas with individual boxes (not guarded). For a fee you will get a key or a badge.
More stations have free unguarded cycle parking, with bars to fix your bike. You may get information from the local cyclists’ association, or the tourist office of your destination.
In velostations, hired bikes are generally urban or hybrid bikes suitable for most short-distance uses, but not for long country rides or mountain. Accessories such as baby-carriers or trailers can sometimes be hired with the bike. To hire a sports or racing bike, look for a specialist cycle shop ; only a few of them rent bikes.
Unlike in Switzerland, in France it is not possible to return a hired bike to a different city from the one where you took it. Even in a given city, you may not always return the bike to another station.
Lyon initiated a new system of "public bikes". They are designed for short trips -typically 30 minutes or less. They can be rented with a credit card and returned to any "station" in town. Similar systems are available or will soon be in Paris, Orléans, Montpellier, Toulouse, Besançon, Nantes, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Dijon and others... They can however not be as efficient as velostations, when a large number of people need either a bike or a parking spot at the same place -e.g. central train station during peak hours.
The cycle need not be dismantled. SNCF will provide cardboard. Allow at least 48 hours for delivery.
Tip and tricks : to send 3 bikes or more, if the SNCF’s Train+Auto service is available on your journey, for nearly the same price as 3 bikes, you may load a car with the bikes in it, or on it. The total height must not exceed 1,63 m.
In other towns where there is no delivery service, you can leave your bike at a SERNAM office for delivery by lorry. SERNAM offices are closed weekends and holidays, are often on the edges of town, and lorries pollute. Consult the SNCF or SERNAM about tandems or recumbents, but they will probably not be accepted. Call 0825 845 845 before going. Short number for reservations : 3635 (0,34 €/min)
Cost in 2006 : 39 € per bike for delivery in train station, 49 € for home delivery.
Delays are frequent and may take up to one week or more. The SNCF guarantees delivery within 48 hours "except where problems occur, and at certain times of the year". This means nothing is guaranteed. You can ask for 30,5 € compensation in case of delay.
Insurance : if the bike is damaged or if parts are stolen, the SNCF will reimburse a maximum of 396€. If your bike is worth more, you will have to deal with your personal insurance. Many insurances companies do not cover damages occuring while transport on a train, coach or car.
Other "Train+bike" pages of this site
timetables and booking , web servers
how carrying your bike on a train
different types of trains : regional, inter-regional, high-speed...