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The best city bike hire schemes

Posted by Richard Hammond at 03:02 on Tuesday 12 August 2008

Cycle hire schemes are proving to be a hit with both locals and tourists in several European cities... The Paris scheme, known as ‘Velib’, was introduced last summer and has been a huge success.

The scheme allows you can pick up and drop off bicycles throughout the city at over 1,000 locations. You need a credit card to hire the bikes (a €150 deposit is held as insurance in case you damage or loose the bike), but it’s free to use the bikes for the first half hour; thereafter it costs one Euro for an additional 30 mins, two Euros for another 30 mins and four Euros for every additional 30 mins after that. www.en.velib.paris.frParis's Velib cycle hire has been a huge success. Photo: © Henri Garat and Mairie de Paris

In Copenhagen, there are 2,000 ‘city bikes’ available to hire for free – all you have to do is leave a 20 DKK coin for deposit, which you get back when you return the bike to any of the 120 racks spread throughout a controlled ‘bike zone’... But be warned, if you ride on a city bike outside the zone, you might get fined by the police. For details of where you can ride, see www.bycyklen.dk. The German cities of Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich and Karlsruhe run a scheme known as ‘Call a Bike’. You first have to register with a credit card on the Internet at www.callabike.de. You’ll then be given a customer number and charged 5 Euros. When you want to hire a bike you then have to give call the number provided on the cover of the lock to get code which will release it. And when you’re finished cycling, lock the bike to a traffic sign or cycle stand at the next major crossroads and call the service centre to let them know where you’ve left it.

Right: Velib hire bike. Photo: © Alexandre Paufert and Mairie de Paris

Similar cycle hire schemes are running in Barcelona, Lyon, Rennes, Seville, Cordoba, Giron, Brussels, Vienna and Oslo. But what of London? Before he was ousted as Mayor, Ken Livingstone unveiled plans for a bike hire scheme throughout the capital. Approximately 6,000 bikes would be available to hire at key destinations such as railway stations and major attractions. The scheme was due to roll out in 2010, but incoming Mayor Boris Johnson has yet to confirm whether he is giving the same scheme the green light.

For a comprehensive listing of all public city bike hire schemes and the latest developments, see: www.bike-sharing.blogspot.com.

An edited version of this article, by Richard Hammond, was first published in New Consumer magazine.

For holidays and accommodation in the cities with bike schemes:

City Breaks in Barcelona | City Breaks in Berlin | City Breaks in London | City Breaks in Paris | City Breaks in Vienna

City Breaks in Austria | City Breaks in Belgium | City Breaks in England | City Breaks in France | City Breaks in Spain

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