A while back I wrote about the great bike rental system in place in London and how such a system wouldn’t work in Wrocław. Well, turns out I was wrong.
Nextbike, a German company with bike rentals already in place in Austria, Germany, Latvia, Switzerland, Turkey, and New Zealand, now added Wrocław, Poland to their list of locations. Bogusław Kołodziejczyk is responsible for bringing Nextbike to Poland, and as he recently said in an interview with a local paper his prior experience with bikes was limited to renting them himself in other countries around Europe. Once he heard that Wrocław was accepting bicycle rental proposals he contacted Nextbike in Germany and signed an cooperation agreement two days later, eventually winning the bid in Wrocław.
The parent company provided software, bicycles, and its name, but I’m assuming they also gave a lot of do’s and don’t’s that moved the process along. The system has been operational since June and results have surpassed everyone’s expectations with over 50,000 bike rentals to date (2 months!). Wrocław is a third city in Poland to install bike rental stations, behind only Kraków and Rzeszów, but nowhere else has it proven to work so well. Kraków (Cracow) has 200 rentals a day while Wrocław has 1,000. Rzeszów’s bike rental system has 350 users while Wrocław has 15,000.
140 bicycles in 17 rental stations are available at the moment, with additional 200 bikes promised by the end of August. Registration is simple and at the moment only costs 1 złoty (about 40 U.S. cents!!). The first 20 minutes are free, the rest of the hour is 2 złotys (70 U.S. cents), and every additional hour after that is 4 złoty ( $1.40 USD). The map below illustrates all current rental locations, and with so many stations around the city getting through Wrocław for the 20 initial free minutes shouldn’t be a problem.
I was however correct about one thing in my initial prediction of cycle hire in Wrocław; bike theft has popped up as a potential obstacle. One news article mentioned that some 20 bikes were stolen so far since opening day. Some bikes were reportedly incorrectly returned and not locked properly in their racks, and therefor stolen with no effort what so ever. But some bicycles were straight up stolen using some clever ways of getting around the system; renting bikes from the same account on two separate stations at the same time, or disassembling bikes for their parts.
With 140 bikes in use however it’s impossible to check which bike is stolen or not. Unless of course you hide all bikes for a day and catch the ones that are somehow still on the road. That’s exactly what the company did and 10 bikes were recovered. But the damage has been done and to cover the loss a hike in registration fee has been proposed from 1 to 20zl ($7 USD).
In the mean time this success story hasn’t gone unnoticed by other cities around Poland and Mr. Kołodziejczuk is already in talks to bring a total of 1,000 bikes into rental operation this year. Here are a few photos of what it all looks like in Wrocław.
To register go here: http://www.nextbike.pl/ I will however try this system out from a tourists point of view soon and will report on the ease of use, or not, after the test.