French government to give every visitor to France a free bike

Published by Lyn on 1 April 2017

The French government has inveiled a major new intitiaive to boost cycling in France: free bikes for visitors.

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In what could be a boon for the bike tourism industry, the French government plans to install bike stations at every international airport, Eurostar terminal and ferry port to provide visitors to France with a free bicycle on arrival.

The scheme is based on the Paris Vélib' system but goes one step further, providing free access to a range of bikes, including hybrid touring bikes, aluminium framed road bikes, and children's bikes. 

The bikes will be be free of charge after a security deposit. There may be a small charge to hire panniers and other accessories, though these will also be available for sale at discounted rates. There was no confirmation on the compulsory provision of helmets.

At least one major camping retailer is in discussions with the government about providing free tents, sleeping bags and other camping provisions via the scheme, which has yet to be officially branded. IGN – the French equivalent of the UK's Ordnance Survey – has been commissioned to provide a range of maps showing cyclists how to get out of Paris and other major cities without using a GPS device.

All major bike networks will be signposted to indicate the nearest airport, ferry port or Eurostar terminal.

A spokesperson for French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve's office said the initiative would build on the legacy of international tourist events like the Tour de France and convert Tour de France spectators into active riders.

The timeline for the initiative is tight, with funding set to be approved and the initial stages of development underway prior to the first round of French presidential elections on April 23.

The far right Front National party said the scheme was "pie in the sky" and that it would be cancelled if Marine Le Pen, who is expected to make it to a second round runoff against independent candidate Emmanuel Macron on May 7, won the presidency.

"Giving bikes to foreigners is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard of," Le Pen said. "We should be giving bikes to French poeple first! How will we ever win the Tour de France again if we keep training foreign fighters? This latest government policy plays right into the hands of Team Sky, who already have an edge with their dodgy medicines-in-a-bag deception. It's time to put French riders first!"

Full details of the government's plans here

Published: April 1, 2017

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