|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia. (December 2011)|
A bike rental or bike hire business is a bike shop or other business that rents bikes for short periods of time (usually for a few hours) for a fee. Most rentals are provided by bicycle shops as a sideline to their main businesses of sales and service, but some shops specialize in rentals.
As with car rental, bike rental shops primarily serve people who don't have access to a vehicle, typically travellers and particularly tourists. Specialized bike rental shops thus typically operate at beaches, parks, or other locations that tourists frequent. In this case, the fees are set to encourage renting the bikes for a few hours at a time, rarely more than a day.
Other bike rental shops rent by the day or week as well as by the hour, and these provide an excellent opportunity for those who would like to avoid shipping their own bikes, but would like to do a multi-day bike tour of a particular area.
According to "Best Bike Rentals and Routes," Some tips for renting a bike include:
- search for bike rental companies online before going to find the best one
- contact the rental company ahead of time to reserve a specific type of bike or size
- try to arrive in time to do a thorough test of your bicycle rental before leaving the area so that problems can be addressed
- make sure to grab a map of cycling routes in the area and also take advantage of the renter's local knowledge
- give yourself plenty of leeway when planning your day as bike travel times are variable, but store hours tend not to be!
Bicycles available for rental in Mexico City, March 2010.
Photos by George Garrigues
Bicycle sharing systems provide access to vehicles for a short period of time; that is they rent bikes. They have distinctive access schemes; some provide free access to members and others charge a monthly or yearly fee. Some schemes operate stations across an entire city, serve members only, and are targeted to commuters. A user can purchase a yearly or monthly pass that provides access to a bike with a smart card. Most such systems allow a member to sign out a bike from any station for up to half an hour of free use, enough for most commuters to travel to their destination where they can drop off the bike at any station. Many bike sharing schemes start charging fees after the first free half hour in order to encourage the user to return the bicycle at the end of each trip, and take another bicycle for the next trip, rather than keeping a bicycle out continuously. However, many bicycle sharing systems offer daily or weekly memberships which permits their use by tourists, visitors, and other occasional users.