Explore La Ville de Bruxelles with Villo!

Written by Alex
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Villo! Villo! William Murphy on flickr!

"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike."

Do you know who said this line? John F. Kennedy did. You, too, can enjoy this simple pleasure without even owning a bike. For a few years now, bicycle sharing schemes are popping up like mushrooms: more than 200 all over the world, according to the New Zealand Herald. Their aim is to make bicycling available for the masses at a reasonable price. This is intended as a contribution to "soft mobility" and as a complement to public transport. You can just go to one of the stations of the network and grab a bike whenever you need one. You pay for the time you use the bike and you don't have to worry about maintenance and repair. A study on Bicing, the sharing scheme in Barcelona, has even shown that "[as] a result of physical activity, 12.46 deaths were avoided [and] annual carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by an estimated 9 062 344 kg."

What about Brussels?

Brussels had its first bike sharing scheme, "Cyclocity," in 2006. The bikes (there were about 250 of them, mostly in the city centre) were quite heavy and only had three speeds which many considered inappropriate for the relief of the streets of Brussels. Also, the system of cycling paths was even worse than it is today. In short: the system was a flop compared to the huge success of its counterparts in Paris and Lyon. A second and more successful attempt was made in 2009 when Cyclocity was replaced by Villo!. As of February 2011, the network offered 2,500 bicycles at 162 locations in 11 communes. However, many of these stations (especially those located in the upper regions of Brussels) are regularly empty while others remain full.

What about the bikes?

A Villo! bike is not exactly lightweight, but rather a sturdy, reliable vehicle. It comes with an adjustable saddle, a seven-speed gear, front and rear lights, a basket, and a lock to securely park the bike. You can attach a child seat to the seat post. You pick up your bike at any station and return it to any station you like.

How do I go about this?

There are two possibilities:

  1. Register online, pay 30 Ä for a one-year subscription, wait for your card to arrive in the mail and cycle as much as you want for the next 365 days.
  2. Go directly to a Villo! station, purchase a day or week ticket and cycle as much as you want (the first 30 minutes are free).

Bits and pieces

Happy cycling!

This article was originally published in the September 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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