Writing about SPB I always try to find bright sides of this city. Well, the city is amazing so it is not so difficult. I saw city bikes system in the city and thought it would be great topic for positive review. It was until I tried to use them.
First of all – it is great step for bicycle culture (and transport system in general) to build a city bike renting system. It is popular all over the world but in Russia it is still a novelty. Only in june 2013 first project like this started to work in Moscow – and it was rather an experiment (now fortunately continued). Year later city bikes came to Piter. What is interesting – both systems are financed by banks – as far as I know – without support of city budget.
To use bikes You have to register in the system. It is quite simple but there is one tricky thing – You have to give mobile number and it has to be russian number. So … better to buy russian SIM earlier.
That is where the fun starts. You have to pay standing charges (from 100 rub/day to 950rub/season) as well as pay for each rental – first 30 min is free, and later system will take charge from Your credit. Payment should be easy – just by credit card. However, I did it using my russian card and … nothing happened. For few days I was trying to figure out what happened with customer services of my bank and bank of bike system. Payment was locked somewhere between – it was not transfered to my bike account and it didn’t returned to my bank. Finally I made another payment with another card. Hope it will happen only to me, but just in case try to fill Your account with small money firstly.
This is pretty easy – You just enter Your number and pin in renting station panel.
Finaly You have Your bike! Don’t expect much – it’s main goal is not to get broken so it is quite clumsy – not easy to accelerate and not easy to stop. And when You already ride Your bike You notice that renting stations are only first step to make Petersburg bike-friendy.
There are no bike paths in the centre, drivers and pedestrians are not used to bikes at all, and bikes that You see in the city are only fixed-gear beauties of crazy hipsters living dangerous life. Bikes are still not recognized as means of transport here – they are for fun only. When bike activists asked city management for some paths city prepared paths … around the park. Bike rental system is also made rather for tourists – stations are in centre only. Cycling in SPB is still reserved for crazy hipsters but smal steps – like this system gives hope.