Day 4 Rotterdam

This was my last day in Holland and what with having to catch a flight in the afternoon I decided to poodle about in Rotterdam testing the use of quick loan bikes to get around on.

There are any number of different ways of hiring bikes, from ticket offices, your own hotel might have bike hire, there are even some electric bikes available to support you up and over the occasional hill. I elected to have a look at the O-bikes as it is a scheme that I have been informed is planned for Southampton in the near future.

On the face of it, this is a very attractive system. You download a free app to your phone, enable GPS location and bluetooth services. You open the app which shows a map of your area along with a typical blue dot showing your position, as well as lots of little yellow circles indicating the position of available bikes. It is possible to reserve a bike for you to collect in the next ten minutes but to be honest, there were so many available I never felt the need to make a reservation.

Available bikes marked in yellow. Click on the button to unlock

Before you can hire a bike you have to put in credit/debit card details to take £49 from your account as a deposit on any bikes you hire. In the spirit of checking it all out, I did this. I then went up to my first O-bike, clicked a button on my phone which says unlock, I am then invited to scan a QR code on the middle of the handle bars where it meets the stem.

Scan the QR code

This sends a signal to a locking device on the back wheel (I helped by moving my phone closer) and the lock springs open.

Lock on the back wheel (fitted with miniature solar panel)

All you have to do is ride away. I have to say that these bikes are very robust. The tyres seem of a gel-filled construction to prevent punctures and in the one I tried, the drive chain has been replaced by a low maintenance rubber drive belt. The frame is fairly heavy and while you cycle along the lights are permanently on. I felt as if I was putting some effort into charging the electrics as well as pushing myself down the road. That being said, the bike handled fine. It was comfortable and the seat is easily adjustable via a quick release lever.

When you get to your destination you simply press the lever on the locking assembly and press the end ride button on your app. The screen tells you some stats about the length and duration of your journey and even an estimate of how many calories you have burned.

At the end of the ride you can see your Stats and you’re ready to unlock your next bike.

You can leave your bike pretty much anywhere acceptable that other bikes are deposited. You are discouraged from leaving it in the middle of the road or up a tree and it pretty much does what it says on the tin.

O-bike in action

I stopped for a coffee and afterwards decided to do it all again. This time around I had to increase my balance so that I could hire my second bike. I put 5 euros onto my account via the same credit card details previously used for my deposit… and the system remembers those details. Typically a hire of up to 30 mins will cost 50 cents. and you can carry on hiring bikes until your credit runs out.

The system is very easy. I did come across some people who thought that they had ended their journey and had to check there phones to make sure everything was as it should be, but I had no problems. There is more info all over the net but some more reading is available here.

On my journey to the airport, I requested the refund of my £49 deposit since it may be a while until they are introduced to Southampton. I will keep my current balance of £3.68 though, so I am ready to ride away in Southampton when that day comes.

Glad to see that from my two short rides, I have so far saved the planet from 2.1Kg of carbon emmisions and burned 429kCals of personal energy. Cool.

(NB my mobile no. removed)

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