Bike Sharing

Bike-sharing? You mean when your brother “borrows” your bike? When your friend hops onto the rack on the back of your bike? Or maybe when you carry your dog in your bike basket?

No, bike-sharing is one of the transport innovations of the 21st century: a shared bicycle fleet available for short-term public use.

Bike-sharing enables one-way cycling trips, without having to own your own bicycle. It is a perfect alternative for distances that are just a bit too far to walk, to make it to your appointment in time when you’ve just missed the bus, when the roads are jammed with traffic, or when you know you won’t find parking, but also for a fun Sunday afternoon activity to enjoy some fresh air. The idea of shared bicycles was first dreamed up quite some time ago; free bikes, painted white, were introduced in Amsterdam in the 1960s! However, bike-sharing only really took off some 15 years ago after the digital revolution, when user accounts could be coupled with credit cards, making payment easier and reducing instances of theft and vandalism. Nowadays, you can find bike-sharing schemes in nearly all major cities, and many smaller ones too, including on our own shores!

 

Nextbike Malta

Nextbike Naxxar

The first bike-sharing scheme in Malta was introduced by Nextbike Malta in 2016. They now operate nearly 60 stations, from central locations around Sliema, Msida (including University and Mater Dei), Valletta and San Ġwann, to stations in St. Paul’s Bay and Buġibba, the airport and Skyparks, Naxxar and Birgu. In total there are more than 400 bicycles, including some electric bicycles in the St. Paul’s Bay area. To use a Nextbike, you need to register as a user on the Nextbike Malta website or by downloading the Nextbike app and registering. You can sign up either as a pay-as-you-go user, which means you pay €1.50 for the first half hour of a trip, and €1 for every consecutive half hour, or you can get a weekly (€15), monthly (€25), quarterly (€35) or yearly (€80) membership, which includes unlimited 30 minute rides. To rent a bike, login on the app and find the nearest bike-sharing station. Enter the bike number or scan the QR code to rent a bike. You will receive a four-digit code to open the lock of the bike, and you’re good to go! The bikes have a basket to carry your stuff, lights and a bell. Hop on and cycle to your destination. Once you arrive, simply lock the bike, mix up the lock combination and open the app to confirm the return of the bike. Nextbike also regularly offer ‘Bikeability’ sessions: lessons to teach aspiring cyclists how to cycle safely and how to feel more confident on the road. You get 3 sessions for free, as long as you put a €10 credit on your Nextbike account. For more info and how to sign up follow this link: https://www.nextbike.com.mt/en/malta/bikeability-/

Tallinja Bike

Tallinja Bike Banner

Malta’s bus operator Malta Public Transport started offering bicycles in addition to their bus service in 2018 with their electric bike-sharing scheme Tallinja Bike. They kicked off with three stations in Valletta: at City Gate, at the bottom of Barrakka Lift and at Fort St. Elmo. They have since expanded with stations at Valletta Waterfront, Marsamxett Harbour, Floriana Park & Ride, the University of Malta campus in Msida and Pembroke P&R. They have also made the crossing to our sister isle Gozo, with a station at Mġarr Harbour and another at the Victoria bus station. To use a Tallinja Bike, you can simply register with your credit card at the Tallinja totem that is found at each station. Users with a Tallinja card can benefit from discounted rates. In that case, you link your account to your Tallinja card, using your customer number. Once registered, you can use the totem to rent a bike, which upon confirming will be released from its docking station. When you return a bike, you simply dock it and return the bike using the terminal. Pay-as-you-go rates are €3 for the first half hour (half the price for Tallinja card holders) and €2 for every consecutive half hour.

 

A personal, bike-sharing experience, by Suzanne Maas

Suzanne Maas

I have been cycling for as long as I can remember and have had my own bicycle ever since I was three years old. When travelling and exploring cities other than my own, I love to experience it from the seat of a bicycle. For me, it is the best way to see the sights, traverse the city and meet its residents. Thus it was, the first time I tried bike-sharing, on a city trip to Copenhagen. It was an older bike-sharing system, where you paid with coins (like a supermarket trolley). The bikes were tough and heavy, but the freedom and fun were unparalleled. Now, quite a few years later, bike-sharing has spread around the world and has become the topic of my work and studies. My PhD research at the University of Malta is focused on sustainable urban mobility; looking at the use of shared bicycles in cities that are just starting to promote cycling as a mode of transport. For my research I went on field trips to Limassol in Cyprus and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which I explored by bicycle to study their transport system, cycling infrastructure and people’s mobility habits. I quickly learned to find my way, and along the way discovered a nice café, the quickest way to the beach, a shortcut through the park, the sunset view while cycling past the promenade…

This is what I love about cycling: you’re moving, you’re free and independent, but you’re also grounded, living in the moment and right in the middle of the action; you feel a part of the system, you feel at home, you feel alive. With bike-sharing you can feel that way anywhere in the world!

 

 

 

Suzanne Maas is reading for a PhD at the University of Malta, focusing on sustainable urban mobility. This web-page was curated by herself.