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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » July 4, 2014
On the town
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Bike Sharing Proves a Hit
July 4, 2014   
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The summer weather is encouraging growing numbers of people to try Warsaw’s Veturilo bicycle sharing system, which the USA Today newspaper recently named as one of the top 10 public bike share programs in the world.

With 2,650 bikes and 173 stations, Warsaw has the eight largest bike sharing system in Europe. The city launched the system in 2012, following in the footsteps of other European capitals whose residents are increasingly keen to switch to bikes while moving around. Veturilo bikes in the Polish capital have so far been rented out 1.8 million times. Breezing past traffic jams on a bike is sometimes the only way to make it to a meeting on time and it is also part of a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle.

The name Veturilo comes from the international language Esperanto and means “vehicle.” The system in Warsaw is operated by the Nextbike company under a zl.19-million agreement with Warsaw City Hall that runs until the end of the 2016 season. According to Nextbike spokeswoman Małgorzata Udała, around 600 new users are signing up for the system every day.

Quick and easy

Registration takes less than two minutes and shortly afterwards you are free to take a bike from the nearest station and ride off. In order to sign up, you go to www.veturilo.waw.pl, fill out a registration form to open a Veturilo account and pay an initial fee of zl.10. As soon as the system registers that you’ve paid, a PIN number is sent to your email address or cell phone, allowing you to rent a bike. You should memorize the PIN, as you will need it to rent and return bikes and to sign into the Veturilo website.

Veturilo bikes are available around-the-clock and the first 20 minutes of every ride is free of charge. The 40 minutes after the free 20-minute ride costs zl.1. The second hour costs zl.3 and then the fee is zl.4 an hour. When your Veturilo account runs out of funds, you can top it up with an online or traditional bank transfer.

Funds

The bike sharing system is financed from several sources. One is a contract with the city authorities, which see the bicycles as a supplementary form of public transportation. Income is also generated by advertisements placed on Veturilo bikes and stations. Bike rental fees are another source of income, though these do not even cover the operating costs of the system. That is hardly surprising given that stations are placed close enough to one another to allow users to return the bikes within the charge-free 20 minutes. Lastly, there are sponsors. Businesses and building administrators have started to see bike sharing stations in their neighborhood as an asset and are willing to support the system financially. The city of Wrocław has the most sponsored stations—17—funded by shopping malls, universities, developers and office building owners.

All profits from the Warsaw bike sharing system go to City Hall. According to Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, revenues from the Veturilo system in Warsaw total over zl.2 million a year, all of which is spent on improving the city’s facilities for cyclists.

Agnieszka Dokowicz


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