Monday, April 27, 2009

The long tradition of the shared Citybikes in Vienna

Well, so today's the day. I will for the first -- but surely not last -- time tell you something about the shared bike system in Vienna. Of course I cannot cover everything in this first post, but if there's something you're curious about just leave a comment and I will consider it in further investigations. For this time I will just stick to the main operating details but not yet discuss them. You may want to compare them to BiCiNg in Barcelona or other bike-sharing systems.

Why the horrible name?
I don't know. I guess there is no more uncreative name for a shared bike system than Citybike Wien. Of course, the name should be somehow connected to bikes and also kind of international, but why do we have to give up our identity for the most boring name? Why not ViennaRad or WienRad or Radln (would mean both "biking" and "bikes").. But hm, we might as well have to live with Citybike now ;-).

Why long tradition?
The Citybike system is one of the oldest ones of its kind. It was launched in 2003. There was even a forerunner model, the so-called Viennabikes, that started out in 2001 resp. 2002, but it was stopped due to vandalism and return problems. Sometimes, however, good ideas need more than one go and I'm glad that they started all over again with the more settled Citybike system.

Currently Vienna has 60 stations, most of which are located in the center -- inside the Gürtel (Vienna has a ring structure, the Gürtel is the outer ring) and the 2nd district. Each station can hold about 20 bikes. Informations about available bikes (and empty slots) can be found on the homepage and the terminals at the stations. Since the previous winter the bikes are available all year round, 7 days a week and 24 hours a day (earlier they had a winter break).

Citybikes can be rent using Maestro cards (i.e. Austrian bankomat cards), credit cards and special Citybike cards which are -- in a modification -- also available for tourists. Preregistration can either be done online or at a terminal. The one-time registration fee is only 1€ and this will even be credited to future rides. So if you're in Vienna the next time, simply take out your credit card and get yourself a bike!

Once at a terminal one simply has to choose a bike, put the card in the slot and type in a password. And off you go.. This process makes it slightly slower than e.g. the BiCiNg system, but it's very safe.

Left: large Citybike station in front of the Votivkirche in the center Right: blue and yellow bikes with ads

As already explained, everybody can easily hop on a bike. While a lot of tourists use the system in the summer, the majority of the users is Viennese.

Apart from the tiny registration fee there are also small running costs. The first hour is free of charge, the second one costs 1€ for the commenced hour, the third 2€ and all further ones 4€/hour. If the bike is not returned within 120 hours, the loss of the bike costs you 600€. After a break of 15min the clock starts from scratch.

Why is it so cheap? The system belongs to an advertising company, Gewista, that puts up ads on the skirt guard, the wheels and the basket. The city of Vienna also sponsors the systems by e.g. paying for new stations.

According to the chief of Citybike Wien, 98% of the journeys are within one hour and are therefore completely free of charge. The average borrowed time is about 20min.

My dad enjoys his ride on a yellow Citybike

The Citybike is a supplement to the public transport system and not meant for long-term use. Although I have my own bike I often use it to get to and from train stations and when my bike is at the mechanic (the next Citybike stations are around 2km away, but as a bike addict I don't mind walking there ;-)). It's also practical if I have guests that couldn't bring their own bikes.

So, why not? Check out their website for more information: (in German and English)


spiderleggreen said...

Our bike-sharing program that is planned to start next year, is NiceRide. Kinda boring too, but maybe they're both just practical.

Two questions:
Do you feel that it is increasing bike usage overall? Are the expanding it, soon?

anna said...

They are expanding (30 new stations to come), but I don't know when and where. Will try to find out more..

The system does increase bike usage, but it doesn't have such a huge effect as Velib or BiCiNg. For that, the system is far too undersized. But I think I will write a little more about the usage another time, cause that is somehow interesting.

Velouria said...

Nice to read your views on this.

I agree about the name! But Vienna seems to have a talent for using boring names in advertising campaigns. Consider the "Wien erwartet Sie" slogan, which they translated into English as the nagging-sounding "Vienna waits for you" -- when it should have been the romantic "Vienna awaits you"!

You say that the cost is cheap, but I would disagree on that. Consider that in Copenhagen and Amsterdam these systems are entirely free. 4 Euro per hour is actually quite expensive for the average person, yet if they work in an area where there are no Citibike stations, they must take the bike for the duration of the entire workday and not just for 1-2 hours. For longer than 2 hours, the cost makes sense for a tourist who is exploring Vienna but not for a local.

But anyway, I do not mean to complain so much! It is great that the system exists and that they continue to improve it. I hope Boston develops a similar programme soon. Many hotels and shops there already provide rental bikes, but there is no centralised city-wide system.

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