Have you noticed how colourful bikes have been popping up all over the city in the last few months? It used to just be the heavy duty DB Callabikes clustered at certain points across the city. These machines look and feel as if they were designed built as a part-time job by a tank engineer…
But now, there are three more options around the city: the blue Nextbikes covered in corporate advertising, yellow Obikes, and the blue and yellow Bykes (as shown in the main picture).
All four companies have the same basic logic: many reusable bikes are spread around the city and can be booked by mobile phone, unlocked and used for a fixed rate fee. The question is, which should we use to avoid having all four apps on your mobile phone like me for the last week:
I have been using the four different options to try and decide which app to keep. To save you from scrolling down, the best option as far as I can see is Byke, but if you want to know why, keep reading:
Callabike is provided by Deutsche Bahn, which is why it is available in large quantities outside of the main train stations across Germany.
There is one key benefit to Callabike in that if you have a Bahncard or a student ID then the first half hour is free. There is actually a deal with Goethe University as well that all students have to pay a fee as part of their registration and then get unlimited access to Callabike. Great if you want it, annoying if you don’t.
The downside though is that the bikes are really heavy and look it. At well over 10kg these are not designed for going up hills. Next problem: the registration process is all in German and isn’t straight forward. The pricing also has too many variations. If you register by phone there is a €5 charge, if you do it online or over the app it is free, but there is a still a €3 yearly fee. The basic half hourly charge is €1 or €1.50 depending on which city you are in.
There are lots of bikes around but you must pick up and return to a specific drop off point which can found marked on the map in the app.
Byke is one of the newer of the companies in Frankfurt with its blue/yellow stationless bikes across the city. Although their website is only in German for now, this is apparently changing soon, but the app works fine in English. It was also by far the quickest to sign up to. With choice of connecting to facebook or using a phone number, then simply adding a credit card, I was up and running in minutes.
The bykes have no fixed location, so you simply choose the closest bike on the map and leave it where ever you finish. At only €0.50 for a half hour and no other hidden fees, this was definitely the cheapest and easiest. Unlike Callabike, Byke have really kept the weight down so it is nice and light. Plus their bykes look pretty cool!
The unlocking mechanism was very straight forward as well. Scan a QR code or tap in the bike number and the bike unlocks itself! Just hop on and ride.
Nextbike were my least favourite option. There website and app are totally in English, but that is where the benefits end. The bikes are heavy and unweildy, and the stations are not frequent enough to be convenient. Annoyingly the pricing isn’t mentioned in the app, only on the website, but it is a flat €1 per half hour. For €48 per year though, the first half hour is free but then you still need to pay €1/halfhour after that. Doesn’t exactly seen like a bargain to me.
Unlocking mechanism is a little strange compared to the other bikes. You book the bike and get a code for an old fashioned padlock. Once the code is known though, there is nothing to stop people unlocking specific bikes whenever they like.
They need to spend less time securing advertising and more time on design.
Have nice light, bright yellow bikes with much the same system as Byke. There is very little to choose between the two bike companies so it comes down to the basics. oBike simply has too few bikes spread around the city for it to be convenient and at €1 per half hour, it makes no sense to sign up. Even their flat rate of €19.99/mth or €79.99/yr for unlimited use doesn’t seem too tempting.