When German Baron Karl von Drais came up with the idea of, and then invented, his “hobby horse” in the early 19th Century, his aim was to help cut down starvation and death of horses caused by crop failure. So, he made a wooden-framed, gliding machine to “get around a little quicker.” Great idea!
Drais promoted his invention, originally named the Laufmaschine, during his first ride from Mannheim on June 12, 1817, by covering 13 kilometers in less than an hour. The machine was used by pushing one’s feet against the ground, then rolling both one’s body as well as the device forward in an assimilation of gliding walk.
Initial manufacturing began in Germany as well as France. Then the Chinese took interest. Technological enhancements occurred after pedals were applied directly to the front wheel of the two-wheeled riding machine in 1865 which brought on the full introduction to the public scene. Through a series of transformations, name changing and branding, these units began being manufactured in every area of the world-from as far as the West to the furthest of the East.
Little did Drais know back then, that what are now called bicycles would still have the same useful intentions he had, plus even more useful functions. They have become what the world continues to see as an easy, efficient way to not only make one’s self mobile, but to cut down on air pollution. The bicycle is often the principal means of transportation in many regions of the world-numbering close to one billion worldwide. This adds up to almost twice the many as autos used daily. Reasons for bicycle use is wide-from courier services (in huge, over-packed cities, such as London, New York, Paris and Tokyo) to military and police applications; from children’s toys to adult fitness (via at-home stationary bicycles and up-hill strength training); and from breath-stealing bicycle racing to inspiring city touring.
However, the cost of taking one’s bicycle along on a far-away journey is not practical, as it needs to either fit into the vehicle, if driving to the location. Or, if travelling by plane or train, extra charges apply to bring the bicycle. Or last, but best idea, is to rent one.
That was Ralph Kalupner’s, founder of next bike GmbH, Leipzig, idea with the new Fahrradverleih system in 2004. After much thought and synchronization, the company officially launched its ambitious public bicycle sharing scheme in 2005. It adds a totally easy twist to bicycle renting that has spread throughout Germany-now reaching 35 cities, including Berlin, Dusseldorf, and others. Rental points are at typical town-center junctions, main stations and regional transport service stops.
next bike GmbH arrived on the North Rhine Westfalia scene in June 2010 to be totally in line with the region’s Kulturhauptstadt Ruhr 2010 festivities. The system offers 3,000 bicycles in 10 cities and goes by the name Metroradruhr (www. Metroradruhr.de). Being the biggest of all next bike’s sharing systems, the Ruhr region won the nationwide competition for innovative bicycle-sharing systems and is state aided by the German Federal Ministry of Transport. Working in co-operation with Verkehsverbund Rhein-Ruhr and the Regionalverbund Ruhr, the system offers combined/special rates for customers using regional municipal transport services.
With its quick, easy, cost effective bicycle pick-up and drop-off rental service, the system has also spurgeoned into countries as far as Austria (called Leihradl next bike – www.nextbike.at), New Zealand (www.nextbike.co.nz), Latvia (BalticBike.lv) and Switzerland (www.rent-a-bike.ch). This initiative has gotten so much attention that this past weekend London made a major step forward by posting 400 docking stations and a total of 6,000 bicycles for ease of commute around the busy city. London’s Transport Advisor said that this had been one of London’s longtime key aspirations and that his team visited cities around the world to learn from other schemes.
next bike, whose bicycles all display a mobile advertising panel, currently offers more than 4,000 bicycles that are extraordinarily climate friendly, easy and comfortable to ride. Its €1 cost per hour-maximum €8 euros for an entire day-aggressively competes with Deutsche Bahn’s prices and makes traipsing through the terrains more than a breeze. It also beats bicyclegermany.com’s €10 per day for a single-speed or €25 per day for a three-speed bicycle. Germanplaces.com has only 1 spot in the Rhine region, 1 in Berlin and 2 in Bavaria, and its prices range from €2 to €7 euros an hour. Plus many other bicycle rental service throughout the country which are simply not as customer friendly as bicycle riders would like it to be.
When was asked how was it possible to keep costs so low in order to compete with other existing bicycle rental services, next bike’s spokesperson, Christin Munzert said, “Thanks to its combination of a more flexible rental-process and the involvement of our ad-partners we are able to offer these very attractive prices.”
There are two quick options of registering: go to their website: www.nextbike.de, enter all pertinent details, credit card information, address and phone number where you can be reached. Or, dial the company’s hotline to register immediately by phone. Once registered, you give yourself the opportunity to pick up a bicycle in any and every German city that has the bicycle-sharing system.
Thomas Coss, a financial consultant from Bochum, was noticed dropping off a bicycle at the town’s Schauspielhaus-one of next bike’ official locations in the Ruhr region. He was asked about his rental experience. His exclamation:
“Toll! Ganz Toll! All my life here in Germany I have never seen such a super, quick and cheap idea of renting a bike!” … which simply means he had a superb and excellent experience. He explained that he has always loved bicycle riding since he was a child growing up in North Rhine Westfalia. He further explained that his passion expanded even more so as an adult, because he uses bicycles not only for fitness but to relax and enjoy rolling along the Rhine River and looking at the beautiful landscape.
From the many visible official rental locations around each city, each carrying their own identification number for ease of description, bicycles can be easily picked up and dropped off. One has to simply call the telephone hotline 030 69205046 and enter the location number on the mobile phone’s keypad. A computer voice asks for the number of the bicycle you want to rent. Enter the bicycle’s number plate and within a minute you will receive the private code for activating the bicycle of your choice-both on the telephone and for surety, via SMS.
With this code, the lock can then be opened and the bicycle can be released from the docking station. For return, simply block one wheel with the lock and shift the numbers on the bar code. Call the hotline number to verify end-of-use so that the time-count can stop. It is cheaper and better to return bicycles to an official location. If a bicycle is returned to non-official locations or areas, there will be a charge of €2 per kilometre-up to a maximum charge of at least €10. next bike’s bicycle system also offers one-way rentals, which means bicycles can be returned to any official location and not necessarily the one where the bicycle was first picked up.
Coss later added, “I do not have room for bicycle storage at my home, so I haven’t bought one, since I only use it when the weather is warm. But this quick pick-up, drop-off system adds a plus to my 2010 summer! I just stop anywhere I feel like getting onto a bike, call up the number and within 2 minutes I ride away.”