"Call a bike" bicycle rentals

I posted about car sharing and public transporation lately. To go further into the subject of mobility, I am adding info here about the bicycle rental system.

There is a system of bike rentals all around Stuttgart, as well as most large to middle sized German cities, called “Call a Bike”.  Run by the Deutsche Bahn aka as DB they are self-service. One calls on a cell phone, after having registered online, to unlock a bike which can then be left at any of the pick-up, drop-off stations. There is a monthly membership fee based on choosing the comfort or basic plans. Details are shown below. Tourists will not be able to register as a member without a local address but can still use a credit card at the machine. The central machine also has a display that shows maps with the additional pickup locations.

The price is based on time. The comfort plan cost more per month but adds a special 12 hour rate and a partner can gets a discounted membership. In Stuttgart and Hamburg, unlike most cities, the first 30 minutes is free for both the basic and comfort plans. The question is if this will get phased out because it negates the main advantage of paying more monthly for the Comfort plan.

For day or longer rentals they are rather expensive so best to use for short rides, give the bike back and take another one later when needed. They are intended for city use and not practical for long tours. Although I have a couple bikes of my own I find this very convenient. If it’s raining I might take a U-Bahn into town and later it’s sunny and I want to go home. Rather than pay for another U-Bahn, I will grab a Call a Bike. They are located at many strategic places in the city centers like the main train station, near the Schlossplatz, Rötebühlplatz etc. Some of the major outlying suburbs also have locations but this is much more selective.

The bikes are very sturdy but rather heavy. They all have lights and there are also electric versions called Pedelecs aka E-Bikes that look virtually the same and until now are exclusively available in Stuttgart. They get locked into a charging station that has a light on top of it indicating if it is charged or not. Otherwise, one sees no difference! Best not to mix them up as the electric ones cost more and you won’t even know it until it shows up on your bill. I have not tested it out but I suspect that one of their normal bikes could be connected to the charging stations by mistake. If so, one could also end up with a non-electric one having intended to take an electric one.

Also, there are some bugs in the system. Sometimes the bikes don’t unlock as intended but indicate that you have taken one. Or it doesn’t properly register that it has been returned. More than once I have found an unlocked Call a Bike. Obviously a case of someone not controlling that the display has confirmed its return. The unfortunate person is then going to pay for a lot of extra time or if someone would just keep the bike then the cost of replacement!  A number of times I have had to try a second or third bike to get one that unlocked or was not somehow damaged. Or by returning, I’ve had to try multiple docking stations until I found that one that worked.

Tariff system

Usage time is charged in 30 minute blocks rather than the exact time used like was done until 2015.  (use it for 32 minutes and you’ll be paying for an hour)

First 30 minutes cost € 2.40 Each additional 30 minutes € 1. Comfort plan gives first 30 minutes free and then charges the € 2.40 for the second 30 minutes.

Registered members can get the basic or comfort tariffs.

With the comfort tariff one can get a second „partner“ bike.

The special (Ermaßigt) discounts apply to registered students and seniors over 65.

E-bikes cost € 3 a year fee plus 12 cents/minute or € 22.50/day.

Tariff overview:
Gebühr  = charge
Ermäßigt = special discount
Stunde = hour
Jahr = year
Monatlich = monthly
Kostenfrei = free
Kündbar = cancellable

More information on the website:

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