From 2018, citizens and visitors will be able to use a new bikesharing system. The City is keen to increase the number of active cyclists, improve the modal split in favour of cycle journeys, and support eco-friendly urban transport in general. The bikesharing scheme will cover the city centre and surrounding districts, contributing to the revitalization of these areas. To motivate people to use the scheme, bikes will be available free of charge for a set length of time. A dense network of bikesharing points will cover key transport hubs, large office complexes and public buildings, linking them with the city centre and other tourist destinations. The scheme may subsequently be expanded into other parts of Ostrava.
Ostrava’s bikesharing scheme – which forms part of the City’s Strategic Development Plan – has been launched after many months of detailed preparation. From 1 May, bike stations has been located at 39 different locations in the wider city centre. During the opening phase of the project, a total of 180 bikes is available for public use; these urban bikes will feature low saddles for easy mounting and dismounting, coaster brakes (where you pedal backwards to apply the brake), and a practical front basket for carrying small loads. The service is provided by Rekola Bikesharing, and it will not cost the City anything. The bikesharing scheme runs from May until the winter season (at the latest 21 December, when the contract with Rekola expires).
The scheme enables users to borrow a bike at one station and return it at a different location. Each station includes a mobile stand with space for 6–12 bikes. It is only possible to return a bike to one of the stands listed in the system (in the app or on the web). If a user fails to return the bike to one of the stands, a fine will be charged. The bikes are regularly collected and taken to other stations within the city, which ensures that all stations are kept properly stocked at all times.
At the end of this year, the City of Ostrava and Rekola will evaluate the level of public interest in the scheme (both among citizens and visitors to Ostrava) during the first phase of the project. Depending on the results of the evaluation, the service may be adjusted and/or expanded to serve other parts of the city.
The first 15 minutes are free of charge, and there is a charge of 18 CZK for the next 45 minutes. After that first hour, each 15 minutes costs just 6 CZK. Before borrowing a bike, users need to register in the Rekola system. It is also possible to use SMS text messages for borrowing and returning bikes; each message sent costs the user 1 CZK, and users are billed at the start of each month. Rekola provides user info via a telephone call centre (in Czech and English) on weekdays from 9:00–17:00, as well as via e-mail, Facebook messenger, the company’s website, and smartphone apps (iPhone, Android).
The origins of the bikesharing scheme
The origins of the bikesharing scheme date back to 2016, when the City carried out a survey to determine the level of public interest in such a project. Almost 1700 people replied, and almost 90% of respondents supported the idea: 63% said they would use the scheme occasionally, and 24% said they would use it on a regular basis. The questionnaire also revealed that most of Ostrava’s citizens travel either by car or by public transport; only 7% are cyclists. It is expected that the bikesharing scheme will help increase this figure.
Respondents to the City’s questionnaire identified a number of key locations where they considered bikesharing to be particularly useful. These included the main square in the city centre (Masarykovo náměstí), Lower Vítkovice, the Forum Nová Karolina shopping mall, and the main railway station.
Ostrava has supported cycling in the city for many years. There are around 250 kilometres of dedicated cycle routes within the city, and more are currently being built or planned. The introduction of the bikesharing scheme represents a further step towards creating a healthier, cleaner and more eco-friendly transport system in Ostrava.