• 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
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Prisoners of War pictured in 1918. Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825

Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online

Hundreds of thousands of rare records and images from World War I have been put online by the German government, ahead of Monday's 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict. READ  

Merkel to push for 'swift' EU Russia sanctions
Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Vladimir Putin chat with Fifa President Sepp Blatter (c) in Brazil before the 2014 World Cup final. Photo: DPA

Merkel to push for 'swift' EU Russia sanctions

UPDATE: Russia's failure to help quell the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and fully assist the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 demanded a tough response, a German government spokesman said on Wednesday. READ  

Löw to remain Germany coach to 2016
Joachim Löw (l) during a coaching session in Brazil. Photo:DPA

Löw to remain Germany coach to 2016

UPDATE: Joachim Löw will remain German national football team coach following the World Cup victory in Brazil, he confirmed on Wednesday. READ  

Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests
A pro-Palestine demonstration in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests

Demands are growing in Germany for the prosecution of protesters in Berlin, Frankfurt and other cities who led anti-Semitic chants and incited violence against Jews over Israel's military offensive in Gaza. READ  

The Local List
The 12 best words in the German language
Photo: DPA

The 12 best words in the German language

The Local List has covered all aspects of German words, from the untranslatable to the longest. But we've never done a ranking of what are simply the best words in the German language, until now... READ  

Munich police find 49 refugees on one train
Police arrested three Italians for allegedly driving 25 Syrians into Germany on Tuesday. Photo: Bundespolizei

Munich police find 49 refugees on one train

Police in Munich found 49 refugees on one train which arrived at the city’s central station from Italy on Monday night. Officers in the Bavarian capital have reported a “huge increase” in the number of people arriving illegally over the last few weeks at Munich's train terminal. READ  

Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home
Coach Joachim Löw ensured his team had a yoga instructor with them at all times. Photo: DPA

Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home

Germany’s World Cup winning football team have revealed one of the secrets of their success in Brazil this summer – yoga. READ  

Court jails student for protest at far-right ball
Josef S. at the court in Vienna. Photo: DPA

Court jails student for protest at far-right ball

UPDATE: A German student, accused of being the ringleader of far-left demonstrators who protested at Vienna’s far-right Akademikerball, has been jailed, despite questionable evidence of his involvement. READ  

Lufthansa cancels Tel Aviv flights
A Lufthansa Boeing 747 at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Photo: DPA

Lufthansa cancels Tel Aviv flights

Lufthansa said on Tuesday it was suspending its service to Tel Aviv until at least Thursday over security concerns amid the escalating Gaza conflict. READ  

German state bans Hells Angels' logo online
Photo: DPA

German state bans Hells Angels' logo online

Displaying the symbols of notorious motorcycle gangs the Hells Angels and the Bandidos is forbidden across Germany, but that ban has now extended to the internet. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Politics
View from Germany: 'Nobody will win in an economic war with Russia'
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
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
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
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

3,252
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd