I’ve recently used my first OV-fiets and it was a fantastic experience1. It’s a great way to bridge the last couple of miles on your transit experience and I think an important addition to the public transportation system.
CC picture by Anne Helmond
Paris has its vélib system2 and other major metropolitan cities may have similar bicycle sharing systems, but ov-fiets (literally ‘public transportation bike’) is Netherlands wide and has a great service design backing it up.
The idea is you get a subscription (based on your id and bank account to prevent abuse) for €9,50/year which is hooked up to your rail card so you can use that same card to get your bike. With one card you can get up to two very decent bikes3 at any issuing point (most larger railway stations in the Netherlands and more). Payment is deducted automatically from your bank account, so that eliminates another step from the checkout process which is very quick indeed. At stations which don’t have a large bike facility and for return at night there are also unmanned facilities where you can get a bike from a locker using your secret code.
CC picture by FaceMePLS
Most importantly for us Dutch, the system is very cheap. Renting one bike for 20 hours costs you €2,85. If you have multiple errands to run in a city, this is cheaper than using public transportation (and you have more freedom and you don’t have to wait for buses). Most people I tell about the system can’t believe how cheap it is. I do hope it is cost effective. I will gladly pay more per ride if it means the system will be around in the future.
OV-fiets is a great solution for me. I visit various cities irregularly. My method of entry, is almost always by train and that part of the journey is usually relatively quick, clear and comfortable. After that part comes the hell of navigating and waiting for local public transportation. There isn’t a city in the Netherlands that can’t be biked around, so a bike —if you have access to one— is almost always preferrable.
An afterthought: When I was in San Francisco last year, I had some appointments in the Valley which I tried to do using Caltrain and then either taking the bus or walking. This turned out to be impossibly time consuming.
I tried to rent a bike to take with me on the Caltrain but most bike rental places were not open as early as I needed them to be. A system where you could rent a bike at the Caltrain stations similar to OV-fiets would have been perfect. (Hint.)
- The fact that I used it to bike out to a theater festival in a nature reserve may have contributed to that. ↩
- Vélib has an odd pricing system, reflecting its focus on short trips and it has to deal logistically with the motions of Paris’s commuters through the day and the city. ↩
- And recently you can get scooters as well. ↩
- I used to own a Strida foldable bike. ↩