Call a Bike (Germany)

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Several German cities now feature Call a Bike schemes, run by Deutsche Bahn – German Railways.


CALLABIKE, cycle hire in Berlin railway station

It works like this. First you have to phone the control center and give them your credit card details. Then you find one of the distinctive red and silver Call a Bikes. There seem to be lots of them in central Berlin. You have to find one that’s showing a green light on the display box near the back wheel. Next you phone the center again and give them the bike’s registration number, and they give you a code to unlock it. At that point you start paying. It costs 5 cents a minute – 3 euros an hour. You can ride for as long as you like and when you’ve finished with the bike, you lock it, call the center, and they debit your card.

CALLABIKE hire terms, Berlin

It’s so simple to rent a Call a Bike.

Registration: Call the service hotline once 07000 522 5522 or go to

Cost: from 5 cents per minute; no minimum charge, no basic fee

How To Rent: green light = this Call a Bike is free; red light = this Call a Bike is taken. Call the number on the lock, ask for the code to open the lock, then enter code into the display unit, pull the lever and secure it, and off you go !

Having A Break: lock Call a Bike and press the button to secure; to continue your journey, enter the code.

Return Bike: leave Call a Bike at any junction within the designated area; lock, press secure button; press “return – yes” in the display unit; call the telephone number on the back of the lock and advise location and your payment code

See you next time!

(thanks to Elke Pioch for the translation)

We tried it – it works, in Berlin at least. The bike was clean, well-maintained, it had full suspension and was easy to ride. We had some problems contacting the centre at times, but that may have been our UK-based mobile phone’s fault.

Could such a scheme ever work in Manchester though? The most obvious issues are theft and vandalism. And of course Call a Bikes don’t come with a helmet. Could it ever pay for itself, or would it always need a subsidy from somewhere ?

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