• 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

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
And the winner of the EU single market is...
German incomes are higher thanks to the EU. Photo: DPA

And the winner of the EU single market is...

Germany and Denmark came out as the winners of the European Union's single market in a study released on Monday. Integrating economically with its neighbours has helped the German economy grow an average of €37 billion a year since 1992. READ  

Synagogue attacked, rabbi gets death threats
Police check the outside of a synagogue in Wuppertal for evidence of arson on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Synagogue attacked, rabbi gets death threats

A wave of anti-Semitism in Germany, unleashed by the Gaza crisis, shows no sign of abating. A synagogue was attacked on Tuesday morning, a rabbi received death threats and anti-Jewish comments online have increased. Attacks on mosques have also risen. READ  

UBS pays Germany €300m in tax fight
Photo: DPA

UBS pays Germany €300m in tax fight

Top Swiss bank UBS settled a long-running legal dispute with Germany on Tuesday by agreeing to pay a fine of €300 million. Germany suspects UBS of having helped account holders hide millions from the taxman. READ  

Man drowns in cellar as heavy rain hits west
Münster was one of the areas worst hit by Monday night's heavy rain. Photo: DPA

Man drowns in cellar as heavy rain hits west

UPDATE: A man drowned in his cellar on Monday night as heavy rain battered parts of north-western Germany. The emergency services were in places overwhelmed by hundreds of calls. There are further weather warnings in place for Tuesday. READ  

EU to hit Russia with tough sanctions
Merkel has finally lost patience with Putin. Photo: DPA

EU to hit Russia with tough sanctions

The EU is set to agree a raft of new wide-ranging sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, after Germany changed its stance on upping the economic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis. READ  

'Mad professor' to swim length of Rhine
Professor Andreas Fath, 49, in training along the Rhine in Baden-Württemberg in June. Photo: DPA

'Mad professor' to swim length of Rhine

German chemistry professor Andreas Fath started on Monday a gruelling four-week solo swim down the Rhine river for the benefit of science and the environment. READ  

Unfair advantage for one-legged long jumper?
Markus Rehm became German champion on Saturday. Photo: DPA

Unfair advantage for one-legged long jumper?

Paralympics gold medallist Markus Rehm triumphed over his non-disabled rivals on Saturday, winning the German long jump championship. But athletics officials are now reviewing whether his prosthetic leg gave him an unfair advantage. READ  

Woodcarving champions - in pictures
Photo: DPA

Woodcarving champions - in pictures

Chainsaws, wood planes and sand paper were out over the weekend in Saxony-Anhalt where more than 30 artists competed in the International Woodcarving Championships. READ  

Hamburg could treat infected Ebola doctor
Liberian health workers in protective clothing bury an Ebola victim in early July. Photo: DPA

Hamburg could treat infected Ebola doctor

UPDATE: A doctor infected with the deadly Ebola virus while trying to help stop it spreading through West Africa could travel to a Hamburg clinic for treatment. READ  

Germany evacuates embassy in Libya
Black smoke billowing from a storage depot of fuel that was hit by a rocket the night before near the airport in Tripoli on July 28th. Photo: EPA/SABRI ELMHEDWI

Germany evacuates embassy in Libya

UPDATE: Germany pulled its embassy staff out of Tripoli on Monday, a day after advising all its citizens currently in Libya to leave the strife-torn country immediately. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Hamburg harbour lit up in blue
Business & Money
JobTalk: 'Application process is failing'
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
instagram.com/gotzemario
Gallery
Germany's World Cup stars share their holiday photos
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Sport
Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home
Photo: DPA
National
Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: DPA
Politics
View from Germany: 'Nobody will win in an economic war with Russia'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business 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
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

3,221
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd