If you’re planning a bicycling trip along the Loire this year, and you’re thinking about taking the bridge from Saint Nazaire to Saint Brevin-les-Pins, do yourself a favor and watch this YouTube video.
Experiencing this bridge by bike definitely isn’t on my bucket list, and, unless you are a very experienced cyclist, it shouldn’t be on yours either. Crossing this 5km long bridge on a narrow bike lane on a bike with panniers, with cars passing you at speeds of 70 km/h+ isn’t my idea of enjoying France by bike. In the summer season, the bridge is gridlocked, and throughout the year, the bridge is often closed to cyclists for winds in excess of 80 km/h. My advise: don’t do it.
Several years ago there was talk about a ferry service in the plans for bicyclists, but unfortunately this service never materialized. So for now, there are 2 alternatives for crossing the Loire at Saint Nazaire, and 1 alternative for crossing the Loire east of Nantes for free:
- Take the LILA bus #17 across the bridge from either side. The cost is 2.10€ each way, per person, no charge for the bike. Buses can accommodate up to 8 bikes and reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance. The phone number for reservations is +33(0)2 40 21 50 87. Reservations can be made between 9 am and 4 pm from Monday to Thursday and from 9 am to noon on Fridays. If you need to cross on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, you must make your reservation on Friday before noon. Unfortunately you can’t make reservations by e-mail, only by phone. I’ve not used this service, so I can’t give you any insight on how easy or difficult it is. The LILA website is only in French, so reading the schedules can be challenging. My advice to you if you are thinking about this alternative would be to visit the Nantes Office of Tourism enroute to Saint Nazaire and enlist their help in making a reservation.
- Cross the Loire by taxi. Since last summer, Saint Nazaire taxi drivers have offered a new service, “20 minutes for 20€”. This is a fixed price and it’s good for 4 people and 4 bikes. The service also operates in both directions, and reservations are also required. But with the taxi service, transport is available within 20 minutes after your reservation request. The phone for taxis from Saint-Nazaire is +33 (0)2 40 66 02 62 and from Saint-Brevin +33(0)2 40 27 23 07. If you can find a couple of cyclists to share the cost, this is a very cost effective alternative.
- If you don’t plan to visit both Saint Nazaire and Saint Brevin-les-Pins, you can take the free ferry from Le Pellerin to Coueron, east of Nantes. This ferry operates in both directions, from 6:30 am in Coueron and 6:20 in Le Pellerin, and then 20 minutes all day.
Which of these alternatives you choose will depend on your time requirements, budget and bicycling itinerary, but they all offer a safe way to get across the Loire. You’ll encounter enough adventures on your Loire bicycling adventure. Crossing the Saint Nazaire bridge by bike doesn’t need to be one of them!