Six weeks in
After six weeks in Toulouse, I’d like to share my experience of riding the bike in this city. I sold my car, when I was living in Bremen. Due to the good public transport and the acceptable bike infrastructure, I was never using it. When I moved to Hamburg, there was also no need for a car. With the public transport, acceptable bike infrastructre and car sharing systems like car2go and drive now, it was easy to come around without any hassle.
When I moved to Toulouse, I was always asked what kind of car I drove. Answering ‘none’, nearly everybody asked me how I can manage to live without a car. I was never asked that in Bremen or Hamburg. After a short period, I’ve noticed why.
To give you some context: I live in the city center of Toulouse, my work is aproximatly 12km away. There are two metro (subway) lines and two (better 1 1/2) tram lines in Toulouse and the sourrounding areas. To go to work I can use a bus or the combination of metro and tram. Both is about 45 minutes door to door. Or I can take the bike which takes me about 35 minutes.
Not only because it’s faster, but also due to the exercise and the nice weather, I prefer the bike over the public transport. During this daily rides and some other occations, I’ve documented some interesting things regarding the bike lanes and the interaction with car and bus drivers.
You’ll finde dedicated bike lanes nearly everywhere in the city. They are either build dedicated for bikes (in new parts of the city or its sourroundings) or some space has been made to fit them in the narrow streets. I don’t know when these changes to the city center have been made to integrate bikes to the traffic, but it can’t be long ago because car drivers, house and restaurant owners don’t understand the drawn bicycle logo and colored lanes. Nearly everywhere you see parked cars, trash cans or even chairs and signes of restaurants placed on the bike lanes.
Another picture to symbolize the value of bikes shows how bike lanes are placed in a new suburb. The bike lane is a new dedicated build lane between sidewalk and street. It is well paved and looks really good. But some details are just wrong:
The street it follows has a lot of roundabouts. Instead of following the cars through the roundabout, the cyclist shall follow the pedestriants about 10 meters in to crossing streets and cross the streets on the zebra crossing. Cars entering the roundabout will not stop there and might even block it if they are not able to enter the roundabout.
On T-junctions the line for the cars to stop is even in front of the bike lane, if there are cars waiting, the cyclist is blocked.
One interesting traffic sign I’ve noticed here in Toulouse is often located at traffic lights. It allows cyclists to turn or continue even if the traffic light is red. In addition small traffic lights are attached to the poles very low – meant to allow the car drivers to easily see the status. This also is a help for cyclists, as they are more easy to see than the traffic lights all the up the pole (in most countries in Europe, the lights are directly close to the line to stop other than in the US where the traffic lights are placed on the opposide side of the junction).
To summarize: The city tries to push the usage of bikes but fails in some important details. In addition the mind of most people is still focused on the car. It will take a while to have respect for the cyclists on the street – but the city is on a good way. If you are interested in more and updated pictures and info of the bike-situation in Toulouse, follow @cycletoulouse where I post photos and thoughts about cycling in Toulouse.