• Germany edition
 
Biking for free in Berlin
Photo: Graham Pope

Biking for free in Berlin

Published: 20 Feb 2013 06:56 GMT+01:00
Updated: 20 Feb 2013 06:56 GMT+01:00

One man has made it his mission to set up a bike-sharing network in Berlin, loaning out Fahrräder for free. Trust advocate Graham Pope spoke to The Local about cycling into the future.

With a background working with bikes in his home country of Ireland, 36-year-old Pope knows what it takes to maintain decent wheels. With a team of volunteers that's exactly what he has been doing since last June, when BikeSurfBerlin launched.

When he got to the German capital, Pope decided he would create a transport equivalent of an online couch surfing network, through which travellers can find, and offer, free accommodation.

“I had such a great experience couch surfing but when I moved to Berlin 18 months ago I wasn't able to host people in my flat, so I thought why not let them use my bikes,” Pope told The Local.

Pedalling on trust

He and a friend started with just three bikes less than a year ago. Now, the BikeSurfBerlin team has 14 under its belt, and have had 163 happy cyclist users.

Most of the bikes have been donated by people leaving the city who could not take their bike with them. Two were bought at police auctions for €10 and, he assured, they were careful never to accept stolen bikes.

“It's my passion,” said Pope. “It's not a job because it doesn't pay, but I have money saved and wanted to do something here that contributes to society.”

“Although it's not even been eight months it feels like we've been going a long time and put in a lot of work.” Summer, he said, was by far the busiest time with all the bikes booked for more a week in advance. Typically, a person can borrow one for up to two weeks but when the weather gets warmer and tourists begin arriving, this will be cut to a week to “share the wealth.”

So far, mostly only registered couch surfers have used the system as it provides the BikeSurf team with a way of knowing if they are trustworthy. “We don't want to get into deposits, or money or photocopying passports,” said Pope, who currently operates out of his courtyard.

He and his helpers were, he explained, trying to go against the standard model of bike rental companies. “I think it's great that a trust system like this can work.” Pope said, adding he was a believer in people. “They are generally quite nice and don't try to rip you off if you give them the freedom to.”

A way of life

And where better to test this theory than in Berlin, where for many cycling is a favoured method of transport and even a way of life. “It's flat and it isn't rainy,” he said. “I feel safe on the streets here and want to encourage people to feel so too.” Unlike other cities less geared up for two-wheel travel, cycle paths weave across most of the German capital.

While enthusiasm and ability are clearly in abundance among the BikeSurf team, money could prove to be a problem.

Although initial outgoings have been just a couple of hundred euros, Pope said they would need money to keep going and improve.

“I think we're going to try to make our approach a bit more direct so we can recoup a bit,” he said.

“I realize that people coming from say, Ukraine, generally might not have the same amount of cash as people from Sweden for example,” he said, adding that he needed to be sure that people would not feel guilty if they could not afford to make a donation.

But Pope was optimistic relaxed the project would find the money it required to continue: “We have to emphasize that we need some money to run the service but also bear in mind that people are coming from very different socio-economic backgrounds.”

Jessica Ware

jessica.ware@thelocal.com

twitter.com/jesscware

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

06:20 February 28, 2013 by Bettylou
since when did 'loan 'become a verb? it is a noun. ergo the loan. a loan the verb is to lend. You lend things; you don't loan them!! drives me mad!
Today's headlines
German of the Week
'It's important people are confronted with cancer'
Photo: Marina Proksch-Park

'It's important people are confronted with cancer'

Images of children with cancer often evoke weakness and defeat. But Marina Proksch-Park shows them enjoying life. The photographer who has sparked an online campaign with her pictures is The Local's German of the Week. READ () »

CDU candidate forced to remove Turkish logo
Yasar Calik. Photo: Facebook/Yasar Calik

CDU candidate forced to remove Turkish logo

A Christian Democrat (CDU) town council candidate has apologized and withdrawn campaign bags on which he had printed a new party logo where the Turkish crescent appeared inside the "C" for Christian. READ () »

Cheap flights get pricier as airlines expand
Lufthansa's daughter company Germanwings is one of the faster-growing budget airlines in Germany. Photo: DPA

Cheap flights get pricier as airlines expand

Budget airlines are expanding their range of routes from Germany but ticket prices are climbing along with them, a report from the German Aeronautics Centre (DLR) revealed on Thursday. READ () »

Ecclestone lawyers: Bribes never happened
Bernie Ecclestone with his lawyers in a Munich court on Thursday morning. Photo: DPA

Ecclestone lawyers: Bribes never happened

UPDATE: Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone went on trial in Germany on Thursday, denying charges of bribery that threaten to land the British billionaire in jail. READ () »

Minister praises Erasmus 'success story'
Photo: DPA

Minister praises Erasmus 'success story'

A revamped version of European student exchange programme Erasmus officially launched in Berlin on Thursday with Germany's education minister praising the scheme as a Europe-wide “success story”. READ () »

Turkey tourists lose call to prayer refund bid
Photo: DPA

Turkey tourists lose call to prayer refund bid

A German couple has lost their legal fight to get a refund for a Turkish holiday which they said was ruined by the calls to prayer from a nearby mosque. It is just one of a series of court claims by picky German tourists. READ () »

Germany halts arms sales to Russia
Russian troops surround a Ukrainian base in Crimea. Photo: DPA

Germany halts arms sales to Russia

Germany has stopped selling arms to Russia due to the current “political situation”, according to reports on Thursday. The sale of military equipment to Russia by German firms has been criticized by the country’s Nato allies. READ () »

Truck kills man lying in middle of road
Photo: DPA

Truck kills man lying in middle of road

Police were searching for witnesses on Wednesday morning following a mysterious road accident in which a 25-year-old man was killed as he lay in the middle of the road. READ () »

Where are Germany's smartest towns?
Germany's cleverest town. Photo: DPA

Where are Germany's smartest towns?

A brain training website released scores on Wednesday showing which German towns performed best and worst in a range of cognitive tests - with some surprising results. READ () »

April wraps up with stormy week ahead
Lightning over Lake Starnberg, in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

April wraps up with stormy week ahead

The end of April is looking stormy for Germany with hot and cold air mixing and making for wild spring weather over the coming few days, state forecasters DWD said on Wednesday. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
National
Germany sold €40 million of arms to Russia
Photo: DPA
National
Girls find live ammunition in Easter bonfire
Photo: Facebook/screenshot
Berlin
Germany's most viral advert for an apartment?
Gallery
11 things you need to know about German beer
Photo: DPA
Politics
Interview with AfD - 'If Britain goes, Europe is lost'
Photo: DPA
National
Police damage own water cannon with eggs
Photo: DPA
National
Let us start work later after World Cup nights, unions says
Photo: DPA
Society
Crystal meth use hits record level
Photo: DPA
Rhineland
Elderly man taped €200,000 to his genitals
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
What's the unemployment rate in your area of Germany?
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Advertisement:
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Hult International Business School
Sponsored Article
What they don't teach you at Business School
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,077
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd