The End of the City Bikes?

The all-purpose workhorses of the inner city are the last remaining rental bikes in public spaces. But they could disappear soon, says sponsor Gewista. The reason is a dispute over financing.

The colorful bicycles have been on the road in the city for 17 years, some 1,500 bikes currently available for rent with a credit card around the city.  Now their survival is threatened, according to a report in the Austrian daily Der Standard. Citing well-informed insiders, operations could be stopped “before summer,” the report said.

Citybikes are currently available at 121 rental stations, of which about half (61) are paid for by the outdoor advertising company Gewista the others financed by the city. Now, Gewista wants to hand over its share – costing the company €1.1 million per year – to Stadt Wien. According to the report, Vienna is currently paying 860,000 per year for the system in districts II to IX,

No real profit

The problem, says the company, is that Citybike does not make a profit: riders pay only if they ride for more than an hour, which is only five percent of rides.  The other 95% are shorter than that. The one-time registration fee of one Euro is far too little to make up the difference. Logistically Gewista could only turn off their own 61 stations. But as these are located mainly in the city center, the distance between the remaining stations would make the whole system less attractive. Gewista says it hopes for a solution with the city. Negotiations are still ongoing.

The issue takes on added importance, coming at a time when cycling is becoming increasingly popular. High temperatures in April along with coronavirus guidelines have led more people to avoid public transportation whenever possible and instead to opt for the two-wheeled alternative. According to the Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ), 20% more cyclists were on the move in the city in April than in the same month last year.

Pranksters protest pop-up cycle paths

The city has tried to support the trend: At the beginning of May, Praterstraße became Vienna’s first pop-up cycle path, with one of the four car lanes temporarily (probably until the end of August) reserved for cyclists. Some of the Viennese were not amused. Only a few days later, some unknown perpetrators spread tacks on the new bicycle path, which resulted in a large number of flat tires and frustrated cyclists. The police are investigating damage to property by the unknown offenders and have increased surveillance.

The city also offered free repairs at the Green Party’s ”Radrettung” (Bike Rescue) that normally tours through Vienna in the summer, under an initiative of Deputy Mayor and Transportation City Councillor Birgit Hebein.

The sabotage also did not stop the city from presenting a second pop-up cycle path less than a week later in Wagramer Straße in the 22nd district. This one has not been attacked (yet).  

Julia Seidl
Julia started out at "Die Presse." She went on to study "Journalism & Media Management" in Vienna and worked for several local news outlets such as ORF, Kurier and Falter before joining Metropole as online content and social media manager.

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