Innovation That Matters

City bike schemes


Cheap, environmentally friendly and good exercise, urban cycling is on the uprise, aided by smart locking and payment technologies that increase rental income and decrease the likelihood of bikes being stolen or abandoned. Since ever-rising fuel costs are making consumers think twice about using their cars, now’s the time to launch your own urban bicycle rental service. To get you started, four examples of city bike schemes from around Europe: Call a Bike (Germany: Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich) How it works: consumers register with CallBike and look for a bicycle near major crossroads. Each CallBike is secured with an electronic lock: if the lock has a blinking green light, the bike is available. Consumers then call a number displayed on the lock, and enter a code shown on the lock. Within seconds, they receive a numerical code that opens the lock. When done using the bike, the consumer secures it to a fixed object near a main crossing, and gives CallBike a call to inform them that the bike has been returned. Rental fee is pay-as-you-go: EUR 0.07 per minute, but no more than EUR 15.00 per 24 hours, charged to the user’s credit or debit card. CallBike is run by Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national rail service, and currently has 4.250 bicycles in circulation. OYBike (United Kingdom: several London boroughs) Like its German sibling, OYBike uses electronic locks that work with a phone system. The company’s bikes can’t be stalled just anywhere, but need to be returned to OYBike rental stations, which are located near tube stations, public buildings, key transport interchanges and car parks. Cost is GBP 0.30 per 15 minutes, and no more than GBP 8 per 24 hours. City Bikes (Denmark: Copenhagen) Copenhagen’s citybikes are free to use, and less high tech than the examples above. Users find a bike in one of over a 100 bicycle racks found around the city, throw in a DKK 20 coin (USD 3.45 / EUR 2.70) to unlock the bike, which they retrieve when they return the bicycle to a rack. Aided by the fact that Copenhagen is small and flat, the city’s free bike system is hugely popular with both tourists and residents. It is funded by government subsidies and corporate sponsors. Vélo’v (France: Lyon) In Lyon, easily recognizable Vélo’v bicycles are parked in 150 bike stations across town. To discourage theft, users need to submit their credit card details when registering, and also pay a deposit. Just three months after it got started, the program had signed up 15,000 subscribers, who mainly use the bikes to commute from public transport hubs to work. On average, the city’s 2,000 Vélo’v bicycles are ‘checked out’ 6.5 times a day. A microchip in the bike registers when it’s taken from a rack, and when it’s returned. Payment isn’t the only thing tracked. Every time a bike is parked in a rack, its tire pressure, lights, brakes and gears are tested. Malfunctioning cycles are blocked from being rented. Pricing is approximately EUR 1 per hour, but the first half hour is always free. Since 90% of trips are shorter than 30 minutes, the majority are free. Vélo’v is funded by JC Decaux, the outdoor advertising company, which is operating the bicycle scheme in return for the right to sell advertising space on Lyon’s bus and tram shelters.


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