There was a time when travelers in Europe had few transportation options. Namely, they could choose between expensive taxis, or public transit systems that were often inconvenient or confusing. It’s 2017, though, and many major European cities have introduced an innovative, eco-friendly alternative: public bicycle rentals. Through these programs, locals and tourists alike now have access to a zero-emissions mode of transportation that gets them directly to their destination (and helps them stay in shape!).
Every day, residents of Copenhagen collectively cycle more than one million kilometers. That makes sense, as bicycle is the preferred mode of commuting for more than half of the city’s workers. Now, visitors can join in the packs of cyclists thanks to Copenhagen’s Bycyklen electric bicycle rental program, which has bikes stationed at more than 100 spots around the city. Each bicycle is equipped with a tablet where you can register for the program or follow GPS directions to navigate around the city. While a range of subscription options are available, most travelers will prefer the Pay as You Go Plan, where every hour of use is charged a flat rate of DKK 30 (approximately €4).
London’s bicycle rental program, Santander Bicycles, is one of the simplest programs available. No registration or membership card is required. Just head to one of the 750 docking stations located across the city, and use the touchscreen system to pay for your rental with your bank card. It costs €2 to use the system for twenty-four hours. Within that time, each trip that you make is free for the first thirty minutes. Once your trip exceeds thirty minutes, it’s €2 for each thirty minutes more. Santander Bicycles partnered with Transport for London to identify the city’s most scenic bicycle rides, including one route through the city’s famed Saturday markets and another through London’s most beautiful gardens.
Madrid’s public bicycle rental program is brand new. Called biciMAD, it offers more than 2,000 electric bicycles that can be picked up and dropped off around the city (with most stations being concentrated in busy tourist neighborhoods, like Puerta del Sol and La Latina). When Madrid rolled out this program they initially limited use to locals, but now tourists can get in on the action with an “occasional card”, which is valid for one, three or five days. The system will put a hold on your credit card until your rental period is over, so make sure you have at least €150 credit available (the hold will disappear a few days after you return your last bike). The first hour of use costs only €2, and each hour after that is €4. You can earn bonuses by renting your bike from a very full station, or returning it to one that has few available bikes.
Paris has a number of different bicycle rental options, but the most extensive is certainly Vélib’, which includes more than 23,500 bicycles that are stationed at almost 2,000 stops around the city. If you stay in the heart of the city, you’ll never be more than 300 meters away from the next Vélib’ station! Short-term subscriptions (€1.70 for one day, or €8 for seven days) can be purchased at every bicycle station. Your first thirty minutes on the bike are always free, while the second half hour costs €1, the third half hour costs €2, the third half hour costs €3 and every half hour after that costs €4. Vélib’ also offers affordable guided cycle tours through a partnership with Paris Zigzag.
Vienna’s bicycle rental system is called Citybike Vienna. For travelers who don’t have an Austrian credit card, online registration through the Citybike Vienna website works best. After registering you can immediately head to any of the city’s 120 stations, where inserting the card you used to register will unlock one of the system’s 1500 classic, pedal-powered bicycles. Your first hour of each trip is always free, the second hour is €1, the third hour is €3 and subsequent hours cost €4. The most popular routes for tourists include circling the city on the Ringstrasse Sightseeing Bicycle Path and journeying along the banks of the city’s most famous river on the Danube Canal Bicycling Path.