Monday, September 21, 2020

Poitiers, terre de vélo (land of the bicycle)

French Village Diaries Poitiers, terre de vélo
Poitiers, by bike

Poitiers, terre de vélo (land of the bicycle)

Following on from yesterday’s Tour de France post, it is obvious that while cycling has always been big in France, the cycling bug seems to be spreading faster around here than a certain virus we’ve all become familiar with. 


French Village Diaries Poitiers, terre de vélo
Poitiers Mag, the town's monthly information publication 

The new Maire of Poitiers, Léonore Moncond’huy, has made it her mission for the town to be known as the “land of the bicycle: for getting around, for exercise and to keep healthy”, stating also that “more than a sport, the bicycle is a spiritual state and a way of life” and I couldn’t agree more. Teaching primary aged children to ride a bicycle is one of her council’s educational priorities, and outside of the sports clubs they want to increase and encourage events, businesses and associations that bring life to the Poitiers cycling community, and she’s already made a great start.

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, terre de vélo
Poitiers from above

Poitiers not only hosted a finish stage of the Tour de France, it held a weekend fête du vélo, where families could experience safe closed road cycling, coinciding with the final stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes that finishes in Poitiers every year. There have been a number of new cycle paths introduced all over town, notably linking the town centre to the university campus, a fantastic initiative for a town that welcomes thirty thousand students every September and is always rated as one of the best student towns in France. They have also reintroduced a scheme that offers residents a 25% reduction (capped at 250€) for buying an electric assist bike and bought an additional two hundred electric assist bikes for their hire scheme. Chapeau Poitiers, although this is a trend that can be seen in cities throughout France, including Paris where many of the temporary cycle routes that went in to get the city safely moving after lockdown, have proved their worth and are here to stay.

 

French Village Diaries V93 voie verte Deux-Sèvres
V93 cycle route and the proud sign from the Deux-Sèvres dept

Closer to home we have also seen exciting improvements to cycling infrastructure and evidence of big investment projects aimed at encouraging more people onto bikes and it’s worked. I know we are keen cyclists not afraid to challenge ourselves to ride that extra kilometre, but we are just as happy out for a shorter ride with friends. 


French Village Diaries V93 voie verte Deux-Sèvres
V93 at Brioux-sur-Boutonne

When we first stumbled upon the new V93 voie verte (cycle path) signs, we couldn’t resist following them and were amazed to discover quiet, mostly traffic free paths that took us to places we’ve never seen, despite living here sixteen years. We then took our cycling friends out for a Sunday morning ride, sharing our new route along the Boutonne river between Chef Boutonne and Chérigné. It was a hit with everyone and now they know where it is, they’ve all said they would use it again. Every ride we have done on this new route, (that is so new no online maps exist just yet) we have seen other cyclists out too, which just goes to prove, if the safe cycling infrastructure is there, the cyclists will find it. The more people out on bikes, the better, both for their physical and mental health and for the environment.


French Village Diaries V93 voie verte Deux-Sèvres
V93 at the chapel in Chérigné


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