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Bike Rental System

StadtRAD Hamburg

The StadtRAD Bikes
The StadtRAD Bikes © Department of Economy, Transport and Innovation, Hamburg

Why a bike rental system?

This project is intended to contribute to the local government's target of doubling the modal share of cycling in Hamburg from 9 % in 2002 to 18 %. As is the case for many city bike rental systems, one goal is to motivate people to exchange their cars for a combination of public transport and cycling as well as walking – the so-called "environmental alliance". After the initial registration, city bikes are therefore available for spontaneous use for its target groups, which are commuters, residents and tourists. The city bike system adds a quick, comfortable, flexible and CO2-free mobility option to the modal mix – even for those who only cycle infrequently or who come from outside the city. The high visibility of the StadtRAD-bikes in the streets should furthermore make a contribution to enhancing the acceptance of bicycles as an urban transport mode. In late 2007, the Hamburg Ministry of Urban Development and Environment began preparing the implementation of this new transport service in Hamburg.

What kind of system?

First of all, a decision had to be made on the type of system. The two main options are either bicycles, which are freely distributed throughout the city (similar to Berlins "Call a bike") or a system with fixed rental stations (similar to "vélib" in Paris). After weighing up the pros and cons, preference was given to the greater reliability of fixed stations, which enhance the likelihood of finding a bike for hire. In the case of a lack of bikes or a lack of room for rental returns, the terminals at the stations can also be used to direct users to the nearest available alternative.

Shaping the concept

In February 2008, the concrete specifications of the concept were worked out. This included the definition of the bicycle type and configuration, of the capacity, number, density and distribution of the rental stations as well as of the conditions for registration, rental and return.
The first implementation phase in the inner city included 1.000 bikes distributed over 80 rental stations, which in total offer about 1.600 bike parking spaces (not completed yet). Starting in 2011 the system will be extended to 1500 bicycles and 120 rental stations with 2400 spaces.
The rental stations are situated at public transport stops and in other highly frequented areas such as commercial centres, tourist sights and densely populated residential quarters. Almost all inner city underground and light rail stops have been equipped with a rental station, for example.
In choosing the stations' locations, one goal was to avoid conflicts with the general lay-out and design of the streetscapes. Wherever possible, the spots chosen were on underutilised areas, (safe) traffic islands or on pavements with widths exceeding the standard. In some cases, bike stands had to be moved or car parking spaces were converted.
According to the requirements defined in the concept, the bikes are suitable for people between 150 cm (ca. 14 yrs.) and about 200 cm in height. They have a lowered cross bar and an easily adjustable saddle. The configuration includes a front and rear brake, a hub gear change with 7 gears and dynamo lights.
Hamburg is the first city in Germany to implement a city bike system that includes service terminals. Located at the rental stations, they can be used for registration, rental and bike return using a touch screen,a card reader or RFID radio. It is also possible to use a mobile phone for these processes and registration is furthermore possible via the internet.

Tendering and award

Following an EU-wide public tendering process and subsequent negotiations, the 10-year contract for implementing and operating the systems was awarded to the DB Rent GmbH in December 2008. The company is a daughter of the German Railways, which also operates flexible bike rental systems like “Call a bike” in Berlin.


January 2009 saw the beginning of the actual implementation. The locations chosen for the rental stations had to be measured and laid out in situ. In some cases, this required adaptations, relocations or rarely even the abandoning of a chosen site due to safety requirements or alterations to the construction approach. The construction phase also saw the unearthing of e.g. utilities (cables, pipes) not noted in the plans, which required further changes to the original plans.
In parallel with the construction of the rental stations, the publicity material and website for "StadtRAD HAMBURG" were developed (see StadtRAD Hamburg).


Once a user is registered, the first half hour of each rental process is free of charge. After this, a time based incremental fee is charged adding up to a maximum of 12 Euros per day:

  • first 30 minutes: free
  • from 31st minute: 8 ct/min (6 ct/min for BahnCard- or HVV-Abo)

This tariff structure is intended to cater short distance trips specifically and to enable a high number of rentals per bike and day. An additional charge is levied should the bike be damaged, stolen or not properly returned to a rental station. All charges can be paid via credit card or debit transfer.
The contract specifies that bikes should be available at all stations at all times whenever possible and that all stations should offer free parking places where bikes can be left and logged to terminate a rental process. Thus, the contract holder regularly redistributes the bikes when certain stations are under- or oversupplied at different times of day. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the bikes and the rental stations as well as fulfilling any security requirements at the stations is also part of the contractual obligations.


"StadtRAD Hamburg" was opened on July 10th 2009. About 53.000 customers have registered in the first year. They have used the bikes for more than half a million rentals until June 2010. Between 2010 and 2013 bikes and rental stations were added. In summer 2013 there are 129 stations and 1650 bicycles, and about 180.000 registered customers. 2 million trips were made in 2012. Also, DB Rent has created 12 jobs in Hamburg for the operation of the system.

Why is it an innovative example to follow?

The bike rental system in Hamburg is the first system that handles the renting and returning of bikes through fixed terminals (or stations). The tendering process was organised EU-wide, which was innovative as well. The project is transferrable to all cities, which wish to introduce a bike rental scheme.


Funds of the federal states
The investment costs for the construction of the terminals and the system software were dispersed across the term of the 10-year tendering contract and are thus comprised in the operator's budget; running expenses about 1.7 Mio. Euro (2012)


The operator will provide quarterly reports with statistical data. At a later time, an extensive evaluation is planned.

Project manager / parties involved

Project management: 
Department of Economy, Transport and Innovation
Project parties involved: 
DB Rent GmbH

Project term

The project is estimated as on-going without a special end date: 
On-going since: 
January 2007
Further information: 
Preparation 18 months, start in July 2009, second stage of expansion 2010-2013

Public relation and documents


Kommunale Ansprechpartner: 
Contact person 'non-motorized traffic'
Olaf Böhm
Behörde für Wirtschaft, Verkehr und Innovation (Dpt of Economy, Transport and Innovation, Hamburg)
Alter Steinweg 4
20355 Hamburg
Telefon: +49(0)40/42841–3659

Date (Text as of…)
16. September 2013
Olaf Böhm, Department of Economy, Transport and Innovation
NRVP action fields