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.