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Gothenburg's Bike Hire Scheme

Posted by Paul Miles at 11:02 on Thursday 21 October 2010

One hundred and fifty euros for a bike ride of less than 3 hours!? What had we done? Cycling is good exercise but I hadn’t expected a heart attack.

Exploring the city by bike on a lovely warm day. Photo: Paul MilesExploring the city by bike on a lovely warm day. Photo: Paul Miles

Scandinavia has a reputation for being a tad pricy, but we didn’t bank on the new ‘free’ self-service bike hire scheme that started last month [August] in Sweden's second city, Gothenburg, being quite so punitive if we went beyond the complimentary 30-minute period. We had cycled from the centre, where 600 bikes are stationed in 20 bays, out to the rocky bay of Saltholmen, where ferries make short crossings to an archipelago of low, rocky islands. It was a 40 minute easy ride for about ten kilometres along some of the city’s hundreds of kilometres of cycle tracks.

On the way we passed the docks that used to employ 50,000 shipbuilders. Now just 250 work in ship repair. We stopped at afood festival, celebrating the port’s fishing heritage, with stalls full of seafood and free samples of pickled herrings and pedalled through a suburb of wooden homes with maritime memorabilia in their windows.

Puzzled by the price of the bike. Photo: Paul MilesPuzzled by the price of the bike. Photo: Paul Miles

When we arrived at Saltholmen we decided we had earned our coffee and cake before pootling back on the traffic-free cycleways. Finally, on taking our two-wheelers to the docking station at Olof Palmes Plats, we entered our subscription number and PIN into the keypad. It was then that I read on the screen that our morning’s meanderings of two hours and 39 minutes had cost us €150 each. We could have chartered a helicopter there for less (not that we would have done of course – all those emissions). A young student, patiently waiting to key her details into the computer so that she could use one of the bikes, overheard our worried discussion and explained that it appeared the computer had not been reprogrammed from its default ‘euro’ symbol to Swedish Kroner. “It will be 150 Swedish Kroner (usually written as SEK) that your card is billed,” she tried to reassure us. That’s more like it. £14 or so. Still not cheap for two and a bit hours’ cycling but suddenly it seemed a bargain.

Gothenburg’s new bike self-hire scheme, very similar to the ones in Paris and London, is best used within the few square kilometres of the city centre – perfect for exploring its rose-filled parks, canals built by the Dutch, Michelin starred restaurants and art galleries stuffed with Scandinavian masterpieces. All the conveniently placed docking stations are easily within 30 minutes’ ride from each other, even allowing for a quick coffee and cake. But, if you want to head out of town to Saltholmen, I suggest you take the tram: number 11. Or if you do cycle, don’t fret if it appears you have broken the bank. When my debit card statement finally appeared, our helpful student was proved right. £14.88 has been deducted for each bike, which includes the 10 Kroner (£1) short-term joining fee. All our other rides in the three-day period were free. Phew. 

Taking in the city by bike. Photo: Paul MilesTaking in the city by bike. Photo: Paul Miles 


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