Bikesurf: The Sharing Economy on Two Wheels

A screenshot showing the location of the bikes currently available via Berlin's Bikesurf network.

Tourism on two wheels is a great way to visit a new city, but renting a bike can be expensive for people on a budget. Bikesurf, a trust-based bike sharing platform, wants to change that.

Autor*in Ana Galán Herranz, 09.26.17

Tourism on two wheels is a great way to visit a new city, but renting a bike can be expensive for people on a budget. Bikesurf, a trust-based bike sharing platform, wants to change that.

Originally set up in Berlin by Irish expat Graham Pope, Bikesurf is a bike-sharing network that has since spread throughout Europe – connecting people with two-wheeled transportation on a pay-what-you-can basis. The founders came up with the idea after realising that while renting a bicycle is the most enjoyable and sustainable way to see the city, it just didn’t make economic sense for a lot of visitors. Indeed, renting a bike per day in the German capital is currently more expensive than a daily travel card for the entire public transport day network.

And so, they and a team of volunteers set up Bikesurf with a pool of bikes – mainly donations and long-term loans – that were ready to be leant out and shared among visitors to the city.

How Can You Get a Bike From Bikesurf?

It’s pretty easy – all you have to do is check the website to see what bikes are available for the dates you want, and then submit your enquiry. A member of the team will get back to you either to explain where to find the bike and the code to unlock it, or asking you for a date to meet. The latter option is mainly used for people without a Couchsurfing or Bewelcome profile. As the system is based on trust, a positive profile on one of the other platforms makes the process easier.

The bikes can be rented for up to two weeks although, during periods of high demand, such as summer, it is shortened to one week to allow everyone to have a chance to use one. After returning the bike, users are encouraged to make a donation.

Indeed, donations are needed to continue running this project and to grow. Volunteers are giving their time for free, but more bikes are always needed, and there are of course maintenance costs to pay for too. This might be the biggest challenge for the Bikesurf team as they are loyal to the principle of sharing and building relationships based on trust, rather than charging for a service and making a profit. “It’s my passion,” said Pope to The Local. “It’s not a job because it doesn’t pay, but I have money saved and wanted to do something here that contributes to society.”

The project started in Berlin five years ago and right now, Bikesurf is also available in other cities and countries throughout the world, from Greece to Sweden and even all the way over in Chile. They’re run by local groups using the same concept, set up using the opensource information available on the Bikesurf Berlin website. All of the different locations can be found on official Bikesurf website, so be sure to check it out before your next trip.

Tyres Pumped, Phone Charged? Our Top 10 Cycling Apps

These days it's not just the Dutch and the lycra-clad Olympians who are bike crazy. More and more people are swapping the steering wheel for a pair of handlebars, and climbing into the saddle. Whether you're looking for a new route to work, want to track your sporting prowess or learn how to fix a flat tyre – here you'll find the app that’s right for you.

Rent, Swap and Share Your Stuff Securely With

Ownership is so last century. The new startup wants to make it easier for people to share their assets in a direct, autonomous and secure way - by integrating blockchain into the sharing economy.

Could Share & Charge Be the Airbnb of Electric Cars?

E-mobility meets sharing. Share & Charge is a new platform that has a fresh idea for how to tackle the problem of insufficient of charging points for electric cars - by connecting EV drivers with people and their private charging stations at home.

Flo: the Smart Traffic Light for Urban Bikes

For many cyclists, red lights are a pain in the neck. Flo helps users catch more green lights by indicating how they should adjust their speed, in real time.

Interview: This Startup Has Developed a Bike Trailer That Thinks for Itself

If we want to ensure our cities are smarter, more liveable and more sustainable in the future, we need to come up with transport solutions that save space and resources. Nüwiel's smart electric bike trailer seems like a clever step in the right direction.

Are E-bikes an Urban Revolution on Two Wheels?

When it comes to news and stats on e-mobility, electric cars and buses get the lion’s share of attention. But it’s actually their two-wheeled cousin, the electric bike or e-bike, that’s the top-selling electric vehicle worldwide. Are e-bikes about to usher in a whole new era of transportation?

Sharing Is Caring: The Rise of Electric Scooters

First came bike sharing schemes, then electric car sharing systems started gaining in popularity. Now several large cities around the world are rolling out electric scooter sharing services. Will this be the new vehicle of choice for urban dwellers?

This Bike Is Going the Extra Mile for Education

Bicycles are back. Ok they never went away, but riding a bike has never been so cool, with bike models designed to meet a growing range of needs and tastes increasingly on the market. Any respectable city will boast cool cycle-shops, and hip bike-riders to match. Some bikes, however, just go the extra mile like those from Vélosophy that help support girls education.

Info Cycle: Where Are Our Bicycles Really Taking Us?

When you think of Ford Motor Company, you probably picture vehicles with more than just two wheels. But the car giant is now turning its attention to bicycles too, as part of their new “Smart Mobility” plan, announced by the company’s CEO last month, which tracks the movement of bicycles through urban landscapes.