The Saint-Nazaire Bridge over the Loire, regarded as one of the most breath-taking but dangerous bridges in France for bicyclists, is now much safer due to major road improvements made over the summer. Old cycle tracks were narrow, making it virtually impossible to ride or walk a bike with panniers across the bridge. Trucks and trailers frequently strayed from their lanes into the cycle lanes, and overall traffic on the bridge routinely traveled at 90+ km/hour. These factors together with the elements, most notably high winds, have made this bridge at the beginning of the Euro Velo 6 a nightmare for bicyclists. Most who made it over this bridge have vowed that they would never attempt such a frightening experience again. Good news is they won’t have to. Improvements made over the summer have dramatically improved conditions for cyclists, and more improvements are in the works.
On August 25, new lower speed limits were introduced, and wider bike lanes were opened. The speed limit was reduced by almost 25%, from 90 km/hour to 70 km/hour. Bike lanes width was almost doubled, with the new lanes 1.25 meters. Even with these changes, cyclists are warned to be cautious, especially when there are high wind advisories.
Personally, I would not cross this bridge on a bike even with the improvements. Dense traffic traveling fast speeds and narrow cycle paths are not what I look for in a Slow Travel Adventure! I would much prefer to take the Number 17 bus which now operates between Saint-Nazaire station and Saint-Brevin, and I would advise anyone traveling with children to do the same. This bus goes once every half hour, can accommodate up to eight bikes and the trip takes 15 minutes. For the time being this is still the safest and fastest way to cross over the Loire. Another alternative would be to start or end your trip in Saint Breven for the time being.
The most ideal solution is currently being worked on. A new ferry service is in the works and is planned to start up in 2012. This new ferry service will be available to pedestrians and cyclists only and will be an ideal link between Euro Velo 6 and the ocean cycling network and LeBaule. Slow Travel Adventures will keep you updated on the progress of this new ferry system.