27 September 2013


Lyon has an efficient and modern public transport network of underground, tram and bus lines. It also has an excellent city bike scheme, Vélo'v, which has been in operation since 2005 as a public-private partnership between the city and advertising company JCDecaux, with 350 hiring stations throughout the city and some 3000 bicycles which you can rent for just €1.50 for 24 hours (provided you change bicycles every 30 minutes). 

Transport operator TCL also has an extremely handy iPhone app which not only calculates journey times on public transport from any point in the city, but provides real-time information about where Vélo'v stations are located and - more importantly - how many bicycles and bike parking spaces are available at each.

But the real people-mover in Lyon in the literal sense of the word is the humble scooter, or trotinette, as it is known in French. Light, portable, collapsible and practical, the scooter has become far more than a children's plaything on the streets of Lyon.

Not just for the young
Commuters use them to travel between home and the underground or between their parking space and the office. Mothers scooter to the baker or market with their children following duckling-like à la queue leu leu, and entire families scooter to the park. We've seen a father bringing his two young children to crêche perched on the front of his scooter, an elderly man collecting his grandchild on a scooter, and even a baby seat retrofitted to the handlebars of one.
Of course children also use scooters to get to and from school, not least since they can travel in the relative safety of the pavement rather than on the road, as they would be required to do on a bicycle.

Indeed so many pupils trotine on a daily basis that during a visit to a local school I was amazed to discover a large wooden box near the front door filled to overflowing with some 40 or 50 scooters.

Asking for trouble
Retailers have been quick to capitalize on this trend. Bike shops and even supermarkets sell them, while the sports superstore Decathlon stocks an impressive range of two- and three-wheeled scooters for adults and children alike, ranging from the mundane - with or without handlebars - to luxury models featuring air-filled tyres, lights, built-in locks and shock absorbers.

Unfortunately you'll always find someone who takes a good idea too far. The other day I saw a man nonchalantly scootering along the road with a baguette sticking out of the rucksack on his back and a baby sticking out of the carrier strapped to his chest.

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