BikeSurfBerlin is our free bike lending service in Berlin. We differ from other bike lending services because our users (BikeSurfers) are under no obligation to pay for riding our bikes. However, donations of bikes, bike parts and cash are welcomed help keep the project sustainable. We utilise the same trust system as hospitality clubs, such as BeWelcome, which obviates the need for us to take a deposit or any documentation from the BikeSurfer. This sharing economy model allows everyone the opportunity to cycle in a safe city environment without paying the relatively high bicycle rental fees.
BikeSurfBerlin (BSB) was founded in June 2012 to enable everyone to have free access to this green way of transport in a bike-friendly city environment. Since its inception, over 380 BikeSurfers have used the service and the number of bikes available has increased from three to twenty-one. Most of the BSB bike fleet has been donated by people who want to make a contribution to this expanding project. Our BSB team has also swelled in number, from the original two to twelve members, who provide their expertise in the areas of bike mechanics, logistics, promotion, information technology and fund-raising. We also regularly organise events including bike rides, puncture repair classes and BSB T-shirt making to help promote both the project and a cycling culture. By minimising the costs of running such a service, developing an efficient booking system and relying on the expertise and labour of our team of volunteers, our project has been sustainable and successful.
Our BikeSurfers to date have primarily been people who have heard of the project through the BeWelcome and CouchSurfing communities. However, recently the project has gained recognition in various other media, including newspapers, magazines and radio and this has brought the project into the general public’s attention and increased demand on the bike lending service. This means that we are eager to recruit new volunteers to help us keep up with the increased demand for our bikes.
Our future goal is to allow everyone access to a bicycle for free and to prove that such a non-monetary, trust-based system is a viable alternative to more expensive bike renting services. With this in mind, we have developed guidelines on how to set up a similar project elsewhere in order to encourage and share our experiences with others who may wish to establish their own BikeSurf branch (eg BikeSurfToronto). To further encourage the growth of a network of BikeSurf project, we are currently developing a network of similar free bikes sharing projects under a single website www.bikesurf.org. Other plans include establishing our project as a Non-Goverrnmental Organisation (NGO), finding more capital through crowd sourcing and seeking appropriate sponsors to help support us.