Best public bike scheme? Lyon comes out on top in new EuroTest
Publication date: 12 July 2012
Vélo'v in Lyon has been rated the best public bicycle scheme in Europe, following the first survey of 40 such schemes carried out by EuroTest. 343 stations with 4,000 bicycles, available to anyone all year round, linked to local public transport, easy and free registration, fully automated bicycle pick-up and return at any station, information provided in several languages and accessible in many different ways – that's pretty close to the perfect bike-to-go system according to EuroTest inspectors. The scheme was the only one to receive a “very good” rating.
Jacob Bangsgaard, Director General of FIA Region I, said: “The Lyon scheme was the best linked, most accessible, and most user-friendly system on offer. Other cities could learn from this example by making more bikes available, providing more information, and linking better with public transport”.
The system came just ahead of Paris. The Paris system received a "Good" rating and came second in the European comparison.
With the exception of Copenhagen and Aarhus, all of the schemes compared had a restriction on age (in some cases cyclists even have to be 18). 35 of the 40 systems were found to have no suspension in their bikes. 26 systems had too few stations so it took time to find a station. The bicycles from 26 rental systems were covered with advertising that can affect handling. Having to pay for a service hotline is also annoying, as is the case for 24 of the systems compared. Also, the 18 websites that are provided only in the national language certainly need to be improved.
The number of bicycle pick-up station offered by different schemes ranged from just a single station in the case of BUGA in Aveiro, Portugal, to 1,751 in the case of Vélib' in Paris. France's capital also holds the record for the number of bicycles: 23,900. Comparing it to second-place Barclay's Cycle Hire in London with its 558 stations and 9,200 bicycles, shows how impressive this record is.
More than half of the schemes are good
There's a world of difference between first place and the only “Very good” rating, and the three “Very poor” ratings at the bottom of the table. In a nutshell, that's 23 "Good" ratings, eleven "Acceptable" and two "Poor". The majority of hire systems in the comparison are suitable for tourists as well as locals. The service provided by 60 percent of operators covers the entire city and more than a third of services are limited to the city centre. Vélib' in Paris and velopass in Lausanne actually go beyond the city borders. In most cases, customer cards are used for access. Around a third of systems use a station terminal or code for access. A credit card is necessary to unlock the bikes at around a quarter of the systems.
A wide-range of systems on offer
Call a Bike in Stuttgart is the only system in the comparison that even had 60 electric bikes on offer. Call a Bike in Cologne and Munich is also unique: the bikes are not located at stations but can be found anywhere at road crossings, so that they are fully flexible. Biking in Barcelona, the last place among the Spanish systems, is an internationally recognised system but failed to come out tops in the comparison, especially since it is exclusively reserved for people living in the city.
Aarhus bycykel and Bycyklen i København in Denmark were rated "Acceptable". What's unusual here is that both systems are completely free of charge. All you need to get going is a coin (20 Danish crowns) which you then remove when you return the bike, just like a shopping trolley. The only other free system is at BUGA in Aveiro, Portugal, although this system was rated "Poor" because there is only a single point of sale, and on top of that staff assistance is required to rent a bike.
Prices are all over the place
Prices differed so much that it was impossible to fit them into any frame of reference and for this reason EuroTest merely recorded them, but did not rate them.
OV-Fiets in the Netherlands, Citybike Wien and nextbike St. Pölten in Austria as well as WRM nextbike Breslau in Poland, for instance, do not offer any kind of membership. Users simply pay for each trip. The systems in the other cities in the comparison offer at least one-day, three-day, seven-day, monthly or annual membership. The prices for a three-day card range from one euro at vélo’v in Lyon and vélhop in Strasbourg to the equivalent of 18.61 euro at Sweden's Stockholm City Bikes, a year's membership at Bicikelj in Slovenia's capital city of Ljubljana costs three euro while Barclays Cycle Hire in London charges 55.07 euro.
What's generally true and may seem surprising is that the prices charged for short-time usage are lower than those charged when bikes are used over a longer period of time. The incentive to use bikes for short journeys is often boosted by free minutes, i.e. the first 30 or even 60 minutes for free. Longer usage is often prevented by a maximum usage period of three (Smartbike in Oslo, Stockholm City Bikes) or four hours (Velo-Antwerpen in Antwerp). Longer usage may also be sanctioned by excessively expensive hourly rates. In terms of price, hiring a bike in Turin for 24 hours would cost a whopping 138 euro. It's difficult for users to work through the jungle of rates and charges – and many of the operators’ websites also fail to make matters any clearer.
Through EuroTest – an international testing programme for consumer protection, 18 automobile clubs in 17 countries, members of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), have been putting the quality and safety of mobility in Europe to the test since 2000 for the benefit of their members and all mobile consumers in Europe. The EuroTest partners have constantly called for a Europe where the mobile consumer can circulate freely using quality infrastructure and services safely.