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“Great idea but poorly implemented”
Review of Velo Bleu Bike

Velo Bleu Bike
Ranked #65 of 77 Outdoor Activities in Nice
Attraction details
Reviewed 2 March 2014

Nice is a great place to cycle The Promenade des Anglais is long and wide and the city even has some cycle lanes now :)

However the Vélo Bleu system is already showing signs of fatigue and is generally badly implemented.

Before you can do anything, you need to register however the website is in French. I found it relatively easy to navigate and sign-up but I would imagine it would put off most straight away. I'm not sure if you can register over the telephone. When you sign-up your store your mobile phone number and card details.

Then it comes to getting a bike. Quality was generally poor. The first day I used it the first bike I chose was in good condition but the second day I had to hire and return three bikes before getting one that was acceptable (although second gear didn't work on that one!) Many other bikes were showing serious signs of wear and tear.

The hiring stations do offer French, English and Italian and when you understand how they work it's relatively simple (although very slow).

All the faff aside, when you do get a bike it's great fun and really enjoyable.

Thank simonp820
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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92 - 96 of 224 reviews

Reviewed 15 December 2013 via mobile

I've been to Nice before and tried (& failed) to get this bike hire system to work. Before I returned to Nice I used the velo bleu website and re registered to use them. After working through it and the fact its all in french I became registered.

When I arrived in Nice I tried the station closest to the apartment and it worked 1st time. Fabulous. The hiring and returning of the bikes was simple once I knew how it worked.

As other reviewers have said the state of some bikes does leave a little to be desired. Some dont change gears some just rattle. But when its considered how many bikes there are then it is to be expected some will be worse for wear.

Will I use it again? Definitely, if only because its free for under 30 mins.

1  Thank jsh69
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 November 2013

Renting the bikes is fairly straight forward (if you speak French) What is not made clear is that a deposit of 150 is blocked on your card for up to 15 days for each bike. This money is not taken but shows as a block on your account. The actual charge (which is very reasonable if you use it properly !) does not show until 7 days later. So I wasted time ringing Customer services and writing to them which I wouldnt have bothered with if I had read these reviews before I went. If you think that you will use the bikes more than once during your stay, then rent for a 7 day period (only a fiver). Put them back if you are having lunch and rent again after wards. You can get them almost for nothing if you can be bothered to return them every 30 minutes ! Make sure that they are properly locked in when you return them and have fun !!!

4  Thank westcorklifecoach
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 September 2013

Just back from a week in Nice. My husband has always been a keen cyclist but I only learned to ride a bike this year. We were really keen to explore Nice and surrounding area by bike if possible on this trip so I'd researched the Velobleu system before we went .A lot of the reviews on here really worried me ! I'd looked into alternative bike hire but the alternatives are really a LOT more expensive and tend to be more aimed at people going longer distances, proper 'touring'. Whereas we just wanted to use the extensive network of cycle paths to do some easy 'tourist commuting and exploring'. The South of France in general is outstanding for cycling but I'm not quite at that level yet so Velobleu was perfect for me - but I was worried about what problems we might have based upon the reviews.

I needn't have worried. I honestly am stunned at the level of problems so many people seem to have had!

REGISTRATION
I intended to register from home before we got there but didn't have time. In the end, I sat in our hotel on the first morning using my netbook and the free hotel WIFI and did it from there. Yes, the registration website is in French but if you've got the most basic school French AND are used to registering for things online/ can copy and paste into a translation engine if required, you'll be fine. The only tricky thing is the postcode field doesn't accept letters so I just put only the numbers from our postcode in it - the website accepted it and I had no problems from then on.

Once you've registered you can pay either EUR1 for a one day 'membership subscription', EUR5 for a one WEEK subscription or more for longer periods. We chose the EUR5 option. Once registered, everything is as you'd expect on the site - you can log on and check the status of your membership etc etc.

GETTING A BIKE
There was a Velobleu station right outside our hotel so we trundled outside excitedly to try it! First, the stations do take a minute or two to 'warm up' once you switch them on so a) make pressing the On button the first thing you do immediately on arrival and b) be patient! Whilst the screen is warming up you can check the bikes that are attached to that terminal. Each terminal has 3 lock slots so there can be up to 3 bikes attached to each terminal. Check the tyres aren't flat, check the seat is adjustable OK, check the gears as best you can, and as best you can lift the bike and check you can spin the pedals. You can't really check the brakes until you're on the bike unfortunately. Once you've selected a bike you think is OK and once the screen wakes up you can immediately choose to put it into whatever language you want, in our case English, and then you're off. Choose the 'hire a bike' option. Then it says 'dial this number to identify yourself'. The phone number for each individual terminal is different. It will be a +33 number for France and usually next a 6 but not always, but every number is different. Here's the important bit that most reviews don't mention: THE CALL IS FREE OF CHARGE! All that happens is you're phoning the terminal long enough for it to 'caller ID' your phone and verify that it is YOU standing in front of the terminal linked to YOUR ACCOUNT. The call doesn't connect so it costs you nothing, even from an international mobile. Within seconds, it identifies you, says "Welcome [YourName]" on the terminal screen so you know it's identified you correctly. It then asks you to select which bike (of the 3 lock slots) you want. Once you choose 1, 2 or 3 it then tells you to immediately pull the lock spike out of the hole. You do this, and you're off.

I would always do a short slow cycle right by the station to start with, as I'd say a good 20% of the bikes we got were dodgy in some way even after we'd checked for things like flat tyres before hand. Many are only slightly dodgy (noisy brakes, for example) but a few are unrideable. We only had a few of these in our entire week, though. But it's important to know this can happen as obviously it all takes time to return the bike and get another one instead. Once our friend arrived and we were getting 3 bikes at a time, we found the chances of all 3 of us getting 'good' bikes at the same time weren't great! which is the only real - and inevitable, to be fair - down side of the system.

MULTIPLE BIKES
I'd read somewhere you can get up to 5 bikes on one mobile phone/ account. However I didn't twig that whilst this is true, you do of course need to may for further 'membership subscriptions' for subsequent bikes. So having gotten our first bike, when I then identified myself at the same terminal and asked to take a second bike, it did prompt me that I needed to pay a further subscription. However this was easy - since I was already registered online I just chose the appropriate option for 'I'm already registered' and a couple of screens (on the terminal) later, after accepting the extra EUR5 charge and the terms and conditions, I was allowed to take out a second bike for my husband. Easy! When our friend joined us in Nice a few days later, I did the same again and took out a third bike. Of course they could have both registered themselves but it was easier for us to do it that way. Important point of course is they'll reserve EUR150 on your card for EACH BIKE so at one point I must've had an authorisation for EUR450 on my card. However I have a high credit limit I wasn't using all of so this was fine, and it's now all been released. We did get quite good at hiring the 3 bikes as quickly as possible one after the other on the same phone, so as not to waste any more than necessary of our free half hour time period!

CHARGING
If you want to minimise the overall cost, you will want to keep as many of your hires as possible to within the 30 minute window. After you've paid the membership subscription, it's free for the first 30 minutes of any hire, EUR1 for the next hour, and EUR2 per hour after that. We originally thought we might just keep bikes for longer periods and pay the charges (which are perfectly reasonable) But the main thing is you want to be able to ensure you can lock them away securely. Although they have a combination lock with them, there are so many Velobleu stations it's a lot easier to just hire a bike, keep it as long as it takes you to get to the vicinity you're heading for, dump the bike (or rather return it properly to a station!) and then hire another one later. So most of the time we tried to do this. But we weren't pathological about it - if it was better for us to keep the bikes a bit longer we did. I have just worked out that for my husband and I for a week, and our friend for 3 days of that too, the total charges we've paid for the whole week of using several VeloBleu per day, was £21.58! yes, that includes the membership subscription and a few charges for longer hires. Ridiculously cheap.

We stayed in a hotel near the airport and so generally once or twice a day we'd cycle all the way long the Promenade des Anglais into Nice. The most AMAZING and beautiful cycle along cycle paths the whole way, and totally flat. Really incredible cycling, so stunning. I would never tire of that view. A couple of times we also went the other direction into Cagnes Sur Mer and on to Antibes - the cycle path goes all the way to Antibes. I gather there are cycle paths a lot of the way to Cannes too, but the Velobleu stations stop at Antibes. From the train line, we could see cycle paths along a lot of the coast to Cannes but not the whole way, and I'm not sure I'd want to take a Velobleu anywhere further west than Antibes anyway.

THE BIKES
It has to be said, they are heavy bikes. I only ride a mountain bike (and a cheap one, too, so pretty heavy) but even I noticed it was heavy. One reason is they contain generator things to power the (generally bright and good) head and tail lights from your cycling. Also they're front-heavy, with the pannier etc, so that took a little getting used to for me. But even I, an inexperienced cyclist, got used to that within an hour or so of use. Until then, I just kept over-steering a bit at the front.

They're a bit clunky and many of them will have something wrong with them. I found it unnecessarily difficult to report a problem with them too - why is this not built in as an 'easy option' when you return the bikes? Surely that would help?

However bear in mind that most of the cycling around here is outstandingly easy. All cycle paths, all flat. So it doesn't matter if the bikes are a bit clunky and heavy because you're not doing anything very difficult with them.

OVERALL
I've written loads of detail in this review specifically because I'm concerned other tourists will be put off by some of the previous negative reviews. This is a GREAT thing to do when you go to Nice and I'd recommend it to anyone. Just be aware of the fact some of the bikes aren't great, and be careful when registering. It's got to be best to use a credit card with a high credit limit as obviously they do take an authorisation for a EUR150 deposit (but note, some reviews haven't been clear about this - it IS ONLY AN AUTHORISATION, they do NOT take the money and then refund you later. The only charges I was billed were the few Euros here and there for membership subscriptions and hires. Also the deposit is per membership - I guess some of the people who've had problems with multiple deposits must've got lots of 1 day memberships for EUR1 rather than 1 membership for longer, (if you see what I mean). I can see how if you did that 3 day in a row you might have EUR450 reserved on your credit card and if it takes a few days for them to release the deposit, it could mess you up if that's your only source of holiday money. If you are really worried about this, you might take a different credit card to use solely for the Velobleu leaving your usual card free for your usual purchases. I would not use a debit card for any online purchase (since under UK law you have less protection with a debit card) and this is no exception. I am quite sure incorrect charges are made or other problems happen on occasion, but if you use a credit card, if you can't get it sorted out by contact with Velobleu admin, you can raise a dispute via the credit card too and get redress that way.

SUMMARY
So I would say, for anyone with a little fitness, a mobile phone, a credit card and only a little internet experience, this is the PERFECT way to see Nice.

31  Thank JulesInSwindon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 September 2013

Whilst in Nice we found bikes convenient, and as very few buses at night a good way to get home. We did find some of the bikes in poor condition and it did take quite a lot of working out how to use the bikes initially. However, beware if you use your credit/debit card to pay for the bikes as despite info saying that 300 euros not debited from your account but is just a way of providing a deposit, I got home to find that 300 euros had been debited on 4 occasions that we got bikes and almost 1 week after getting home I am still waiting for return of this 'deposit' for 2 of these occasions - quite a shock!! On average it is taking 4-5 days for return of deposit which is not acceptable. Certainly wouldn't use them again if we return to Nice!

6  Thank Jenny W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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