In a regular week I travel quite a bit within the Netherlands. Thanks to the extensive rail network, I do most of that by train (using the car maybe once per 2 months). For some of my destinations I can easily walk from the rail station, but for others less so. There are of course buses, or trams, and taxis, but usually they are relatively time consuming, inflexible or expensive (taxis).

My bicycle today at Zwolle rail station

In the past 6 months or so, I’ve added something to the mix of my modes of transport that greatly enhances flexibility and has reduced cost: the public transport bike. These are sturdy bikes you can pick up at any railway station in the Netherlands. They usually also have battery powered scooters if cycling isn’t your thing, or you need to cover a bit more distance. Over the past 6 months I’ve used them in six or so different cities on various occasions and each time they’ve been comfortable and easy. To me they’re the perfect inner city solution.
Here’s how it works:

  • You register with the railway company and pay a 9 Euro subscription.
  • You either get a subscription card, or (as in my case) the subscription is connected to the barcode on my rail card.
  • At your destination you pick up a bike, have your card and the rfid-enabled key of the bike lock scanned, and you’re on your way. (At unmanned rail stations you use your card to open up a locker that contains the bicycle.)
  • You go where you need to go, and upon leaving by train return your bike. The bike is scanned again.
  • For the first 24 hours the cost of lending the bike is just under 2 Euro.
  • Each month I get an e-mail with an invoice listing where and when I used a bicycle. The amount is then automatically deducted from my bank account.

OV = Openbaar Vervoer = Public Transport, fiets = bicycle
All in all it’s extremely easy, and it adds only about 2 euro to the cost of my train trips, while saving me lots of time as well as money and making me more flexible.