Jean Delannoy

Jean Delannoy, himself a keen cyclist, has set up a splendid cycling service (see p77) for visitors to Nîmes. For €10, he'll rent you a bike for half a day, give you an explicit route map that takes you through quiet streets with significant places marked up and described, lend you a helmet and throw in a child seat too if you need one. To explore La Petite Camargue, Le Pont du Gard, River Rhône, Vidourle valley and Sommières, follow one of his four circular day routes, each mapped, described and around 50km in length. What's more, if you hire for a full day or more, he'll deliver your bike to wherever you're staying within the city.

But, as I discovered as we chatted in his rental shop, his shop is only one element of his enterprise.

For 24 years until beaten by competition from the Pacific Rim, he ran a company that provided corporate-branded clothing to the likes of the Paris-Dakar rally and Roland Garros tennis stadium. Then he codirected a publishing house 'until we had, let's say, a difference of opinion about where the company should be going,' as he wryly puts it.

Temporarily unemployed for the first time, he was cycling one day, 'when I saw, stranded in a traffic jam, one of those trucks that drive around town carrying advertisements. And I thought, this can surely be done better.' So he built up a group of part-time cyclists, who bike around bearing publicity boards on the rear of their machines. So you may spot, in Nîmes or at a coastal resort, one of his team providing kinetic advertising for the likes of McDonalds, one of his clients.

'On the back of this came the bike-rental business, very modestly at first.' He signed a contract with the harbour authorities at Port Camargue (p84) to provide cycles that visiting yachting folk could use to nip around Le Grau du Roi. From this modest beginning, he now has a fleet of nearly 150 bikes that he rents out by the season to hotels, camp sites and apartment blocks.

Using his experience from his years in the publishing business, Jean has established Éditions Conséquence, still in its infancy and dedicated to publishing illustrated cycling guides and books about biking.

'But what', I ask, 'if Nîmes goes the way of Paris and introduces a subsidised, almost free cycle-hire scheme? Would that be the end of your venture?' 'Not at all,' he replies. 'I've been to Paris, seen the scheme and talked to people in the business. They all say that it's led to an enormous increase in bike use. People are pulling old bikes out of garages, buying new ones, needing maintenance, all creating work for folk like us. There's scarcely a tree in the whole of Paris without a bike shackled to it!'

out town bikes (€7/12/30 per half-day/full day/three days), mountain bikes (€9/15/37.50) and electric bikes (€24 per day).

Drivers who leave their vehicles in the car parks of Les Arènes, Porte Auguste or place d'Assas can borrow a town bike for free. Present your parking ticket at the pay desk and leave a refundable credit-card deposit of €250. If it's a rainy day, they'll also lend you an umbrella.

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