Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cycling Warsaw with Veturilo

Queen: Bicycle

London England was one of the first cities that Marcus and Agata knew about that implemented a bike sharing scheme for short journeys.

Today we would like to report on our second experience of the Veturilo, Warsaw Poland System

We used this system during our recent stay in Poland.  We first used it  in 2012.  And we documented that here.  Please read our review for all the basic scheme details.

Here is what we learnt in addition for 2015

The Basics
As previously documented:  you register your local Polish phone on the website and setup a PIN.  You need both each time you rent a bicycle.

Additionally you need to charge your account (typically via a credit card) with some local Zloty PLN money.

You approach any bicycle stand, and enter the 5 digit bicycle number and your account and PIN.  

The first 20 minutes of the rental are free and then its a small charge for the additional minutes

You see that the rental costs are reasonable but losing the bike or not returning it is expensive. So after use make sure that you return the bike into the any stand and check it is again locked and that from the panel that it is returned.

To make double sure a bicycle is returned you should always goto the website or use the local Smartphone app and check your account.  It should show that the bikes are returned and that you have been charged appropriately.

This is the digital ordering panel that allows you to order bicycles and when returned and locked back displays the bicycles back, and hence your rental ended

In a few select places there are free tools and facilities to enable you to service your rental bike or even your own bicycle.

Our Multi Day Experience

In contrast to 2012 this time we tried bikes several times and here are some to the learning points, now that the novelty has worn off a little

- The bicycles are really heavy.  Imagine the weight of the heaviest bicycle you ever rode and double it

- They all have a 3 speed Gear, enormous fat tyres capable of riding up any curb, an adjustable seat, and a combination lock (you get the combination when you unlock the bicycle)

- Charges are reasonable but only if you don't forget to checkin the bicycle

- In Warsaw many dedicated cycle lanes are open, especially in the Centre and also Ursynow. But this is an example of Islandism since Cycling between these two areas means pavement since road cycling is almost certain to result in accident  (car road speeds can exceed an illegal 100Kmh in the city)

- Overall the number of cycle paths is astonishing, let down by the fact that in the areas without them you need to cycle on the pavement which reduces your average pace almost to zero

- Warsaw has a good Metro system for longer journeys, most people use that.  Marcus and Agata have tried the bikes mostly because we love exercise and cycling.

- Getting these bicycles upto anything like 20 Km/h requires superhuman effort and that is on the flat

- The Android or iOS app show you how many bicycles are at each Bike pickup/deposit point.  So you need to check this otherwise you risk walking to a point and finding nothing to pickup

Scheme or Buy
If you intend to spend any time in Warsaw you could instead visit Decathlon  (or other reasonably priced store) and buy a economically priced sturdy mountain or city bike instead.  We thought about this approach:

Your bike would be
+ much lighter than the city bike
+ High spec and would get you from place to place faster
+ But city bikes are great since once returned you don't have to worry about the bike cf locking up your bike and worrying about it being stolen
+ Bikes are still not an effective all round solution for Warsaw based on either the weather or the island of bike paths and the fact that the streets are still not safe to cycle on, certainly in a general sense.
+ If I was spending say 2 months here I could buy a Decathlon bicycle, then try and sell it before leaving, and at worse just give it away!

In the winter Warsaw can get very cold, though in recent years Global warning has kept the duration and any snowfall in Warsaw to a real minimum.  Still, bicycles are removed from all points as winter approaches and the scheme effectively shuts down until spring.

All in All
We think that if we came back to live in Warsaw we'd probably buy our own bicycles.  Because we are far too fussy and obsessive to use these terribly heavy and slow bicycles. But all the curbs and bad roads/ pavements mean that regular road bicycles would be ruined in days, so you'd need a mountain bike and/or something with indestructible wheels!

But overall, the scheme is good for short journeys in a specific Warsaw area, in good weather, and is very reasonably priced.

Veturilo, bike sharing
London Bike sharing