Budget Europe 2008

by Ralph Martin


Pity the fool who wanders into the bicycle lane on a German city sidewalk: The red-brick paths are considered mini-autobahns by riders, and an errant pedestrian will get the dressing-down of a lifetime, or worse. For cyclists, however, it's an ideal situation: Berlin alone spends $7.7 million a year on cycling paths and facilities, and bikers can get across the city fast and safely. Combine this infrastructure with an innovative pay-as-you-go bike-rental system, Call a Bike, that has spread to Munich, Frankfurt, and Cologne, and the result is a budget traveler's delight (12 cents per minute up to a maximum of $23 per day). Telephone registration involves little more than giving credit card information; from then on, bikers pick up and ditch cycles whenever and wherever they want, entering a code to open and close the lock or pick up a new bike. (You'll need a cell phone to call the central switchboard.) The distinctive silver-and-red Call a Bike bicycles are all over the city, at most major intersections and at train stations. Tired of pushing the pedals? Just lock up the bike to a secure signpost or lamppost. It feels like the sunny side of socialism, albeit one you have to pay for. Paris has its own version, launched in 2007, called Vélib, but it's priced to encourage short trips: After you pay a $2 daily fee, the first half-hour is free, but prices go up sharply if you keep a bike more than an hour at a time.

Call a Bike
Tel: 49 7000 522 5522

Tel: 33 1 30 79 79 30

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