Bike Share: when it’s done well

What is Bike share? Bike share systems are local government run provisions of bicycles (free or at low cost) supporting a city’s transport system. Such a system works alongside a network of buses, trains, trams, taxi/uber and private vehicles and provide people a way of getting around town without. The nature of trips are usually short and bike shares fills specific needs for users to get around town. Of course, the idea is to get people active, minimise their carbon footprint and alleviating congestion.

Many local government authorities around Australia are playing with the idea of implementing these systems. Advocates and critics cast their eyes to Melbourne and Adelaide where bike shares have been implemented. Running a successful bike share systems contains more than simply buying a bunch of bicycles, locking them at the nearest corner and waiting for people to do their thing. Risk adverse councils like to point to lack of infrastructure and costs versus uptake.

The bike share debate has left me fairly ambivalent in the past for various reasons: my bicycle is dear to me (I’ve named it for god sake!), I plan my trips with my own bicycle and public transport, which means I had no personal need. Yes, I could imagine it may be useful, but as neither Perth nor Fremantle have a bike share I also couldn’t imagine what it would be like with one. You don’t miss what you don’t have.

Well, this all was meant to change on my last stint to Europe.

What are all those red bicycles about, I wondered while doing the tourist shuffle through Hamburg and Berlin. In both cities people were zapping around town on fire engine red “StadtRAD” (Citybike) branded treadlies. Train station exits donned bicycle racks with parked citybikes waiting for their next user. I had to find out more about it.

Hamburg’s bike share website explains how it works: first 30 minutes are free, hire and return your bicycle at any station you like – where are the stations? Well, where AREN’T the stations? There is hundreds of them scattered around town!

Perfect for tourists, I thought. Yes, but actually, perfect for anyone who needs to travel a short journey as the system is set up with customer cards, mobile phone access for very fast and convenient rentals.

It makes sense. The more you know a city the more you know exactly which of your trips are worth using buses or trains for, which require a car and which one you can tick of by bike.

Did people in Hamburg and Berlin complain about traffic? Oh yes, they did. Did they have alternatives for using the car? Hell yes, and they did! In fact, the single most complained about aspect of travelling by car was *drum roll*, you guessed it: parking! Any short, quick trip by car was prolonged by finding parking that riding a bicycle made more sense.

Have you tried a bike share? What were your experiences?


  1. Jillian says:

    Great to hear about your positive experiences with bike share systems in Germany. I used the Melbourne bike share years ago, when it was first introduced. I was interested to see how it worked and used a bike share bike to join a ride with Frocks on Bikes Melbourne, on their first group ride. I found it easy to use and there were plenty of stations around the Melbourne CBD. I used the bikes generally for less than half an hour so it only cost me $2.50 a day. I used the bike share system in conjunction with public transport and was able to get everywhere I wanted to go. It was a bit more difficult and more expensive when you traveled further afield but still cheaper and more convenient than anything else available to hire. I found the bikes comfortable to ride and perfect for short trips on mainly flat terrain. I love hiring bikes when I travel. Bike share bikes make it easy to do so.

  2. Christina says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jillian! Do you feel riding around Melbourne on a bicycle has subsequently changed your experience if the city? And if so, how?

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