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Roll on Lille! This ever-suprising city is increasingly bike friendly. The lovely town center, beautiful parks and mostly flat wide avenues with clearly marked bike lanes make for lovely cycling itineraries to enjoy the city at your own pace.
The park surrounding the historical Citadel fortress is the favourite leisure spot for locals, with over 60 acres of green spaces and a local zoo. Along Quai de la Citadelle there are endless cycling paths to meander on. The Citadel is hugged by the Deûle canal and the woods that surround the ramparts have remarkable trees there, such as a Montpellier maple, Corsican pine and even a Giant Sequoia. You can cycle alongside the water on Mathias Delobel avenue, go over Ory bridge and follow the Le Bois path. You will come upon the charming Quai Géry Legrand with its moored barges.
Cycling is a great way to explore the charming streets of Vieux Lille, as there are many pedestrian and one-way streets, however the cobblestones can shake things up a little. Still, you can’t beat this area for charm and picturesque scenery. The whole pedestrian zone in Lille is now open to bikes, where you can admire a mix of 17th and 18th century façades and prestigious brand stores from Rue Grand ChausséeRue de la Monnaie. You can take a lunch break at l’Huîtrière, an Art Deco jewel specializing in fresh oysters. Continue past the beautiful Hospice Comtesse, down Rue Pétérinck to the little Place aux Oignons. Go on to La Treille district with its small streets and colorful houses. If you follow the Rue de la Baignerie and turn into Rue du Quai you will arrive back to the Quais de Wault, and in just a few minutes you’ll be back at the Citadel.
Don’t be intimidated by the wider avenues. The grand, tree-lined boulevards have large and well-marked cycling paths, shared with the buses. It takes a bit more attention to cycle on these, but it will expand the reach of your cycling adventure as they form a pentagon along the perfect route to cover the main landmarks. These boulevards were traced in the late 19th century, when Lille was in full expansion, and provide lovely examples of Belle Epoque architecture. For example you could cycle along Boulevard de la Liberté to Place de la République, past the famous Palais des Beaux Arts museum. Ride across La Porte de Paris where you’ll see the belfry, l’Hospice Gantois and La Noble tower. Then continue along Boulevard Jean Baptiste Lebas and its park, on to the colourful Wazemmes district. Circling back the Boulevard Vauban you’ll come upon the stunning Jardin Vauban before returning to the Citadel.
This is a bit further afield, around 7km from the center, the Parc l’Heron in Villeneuve d’Ascq, in the heart of the Lille metropolitan area, is a perfect place for a leisurely bike ride, particularly with children. Over 10km of walking or cycling paths wind across the beautiful wooded areas and around the lake. With over 110 hectares of parkland there are plenty of charming spots to pause for a picnic, or for the kids to switch from two wheels to four legs for a pony ride in the equestrian center.
Inexpensive and easy to use, in 2011 Lille introduced V’Lille, a comprehensive network of bike share stations, where more than 5,000 bikes can be hired on the internet or directly at stands equipped with a card reader. The system is great for short distance trips as the first 30 minutes are free of charge. If you need to go longer, there are bike stations everywhere, so you can just ‘cheat’, park you bike at one station an pick up another bike – basically enjoying Lille on two-wheels for less than €2 per day. If you’d rather have the bike for the day, take out a long-term rental – it’s just as easy. There are also electric bikes for hire for riders who like things just a little less strenuous.