We shouldn’t stop at copying Dutch cycle paths, their public transport bicycle share is worth cogging too

COMMENT & ANALYSIS:  Yesterday I covered how there are now 8 on-street bicycle share systems in Ireland and asked how many can survive, but I’m going to advocate that we also need a copy of the Dutch OV Fiets system.

OV Fiets is the short for Openbaar Vervoer Fiets which translates to public transport bicycle. But what is the system and what does it do?

OV Fiets can be rented from 300 rental locations across the Netherlands including most train stations, at some bus stops, metro stations, and some park and ride sites.

A subscription is free for anybody with a personalised OV-chipkaart (Dutch version of the Leap Card). There used to be a yearly subscription but it was dropped to encourage occasional use.

Rentals cost just €4.15 for 24 hours and a €5 surcharge only kicks in after three days. A fine of €350 — to cover the cost of the bicycle — only kicks in after 21 days of you not returning it.

So, the price really is designed to extend the reach of the railway system — you don’t have to worry about getting the bicycle back quickly if you’re going to a work or a social event, or even staying overnight at a relative’s or a friend’s house. If you’re visiting another city or two, wherever you’re off to, you can return the bicycle when you’re getting the train home.

The bikes are simple, solid bikes with no gears and just coaster, back pedal brakes.

If we were to adopt the OV Fiets system for Ireland, it likely would be better to switch to a handbrake version of internal hub brakes, and have hub gears — but at least three gears like DublinBikes but maybe seven.

A key feature to keep is the rear rack of the OV Fiets which is it’s fairly unique in bike share. This allow for better luggage carrying than the front racks on any bicycle share.

OV-Fiets bicycles at Utrecht Centraal station.

OV Fiets are rentable from attendants at larger stations, and a mix of ways at smaller stations including from vending machines but more often simpler solutions such as the keys being in a box accessible using your public transport card.

The bicycles are repaired on-site at larger stations, sometimes at dedicated workstations where staff fix the bikes, and other times at the in-station general bicycle shop.

Bikes to be fixed.

A system like OV Fiets is unlikely to reduce the need for access to trains for touring bicycles or access to greenways etc, but it will reduce the need / offer an alternative to bikes on trains around peak times and to/from events etc.

A bicycle being put on a train.

The below clip is of the OV Fiets at the main bicycle parking at Utrecht Centraal station. The stock of OV-Fiets will be less than this after rush hour. But when train users have all left to travel to a large event, you’ll hardly find a single bike here:

For more details of OV Fiets see: ns.nl/en/door-to-door/ov-fiets

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