Nobody can accuse me of not liking bikes. I prefer cycling to any other means of transport. And I would not mind at all if more streets and parking spaces would be converted into bike lanes. But I am turning into something like a bike hater of late. A hater of all those rental bikes which are causing chaos in Frankfurt, to be more precise.
You have a choice of five different services and since there are no docking stations like in London or Paris, the bikes are all over the place – they are freefloating, that’s how this is called officially. Sometimes you find them abandoned in the middle of nowhere and pretty often you just find them knocked over by the wind, tangled up with others or dumbed near the river.
According to rental companies there are probably 6500 bikes to rent in Frankfurt. You have 11 000 in circulation in London and the city has a population of more than 8 million. Frankfurt has not even one tenth of this.
One of the first companies offering this kind of service in Frankfurt was Deutsche Bahn with the Call-a-bike-app. The bikes are silver with a bit of red. You also have Visa’s nextbike. The bikes are silver with a bit of blue. Those are the two established companies and now you have three new entrants: oBike in grey and orange, Byke in turquoise and neon green and Limebikes in bright green and yellow.
They do instruct their users about the parking Dos and Don’ts but I am not sure their users care. And they are so cheap it’s really rude not to accept the offer. Byke for example charges 0,50 Euro for half an hour. You can make quite a distance in that time. Taking the tram or underground would cost you 2,75 Euro for a single ticket. You pay 0,25 Euros more at Byke and are able to use the bicycle for the entire day. That is really hard to beat.
But does a city like Frankfurt really need 6500 bikes to rent? Many people have a bicycle anyway and use it for commuting, and I do not see to many people using the hire bikes. But company number six is still planning to launch its service in Frankfurt: Mobike. Give me a break.
The local council is aware of all those parking problems, has issued some recommendations and asked the companies to fine all the users which to not adhere to the parking rules. But so far it has come to nothing.
Besides the rental company’s main aim is not making money from the fees. The business model is obviously all about collecting and selling data. According to local press, the city council is interested in getting hold of this data to have better basis for planning bike lanes.
Now, come on Frankfurt: How about doing a survey and talking to actual cyclists?