The OV-bike scheme has become so popular that some stations completely run out of bikes. To meet the growing demand, over the next three years Dutch Rail will be increasing the number of OV-bikes by a thousand each year. They'll also be switching to a new model of OV-bike. To select the best bike, the public was asked to test ride six different models.
The OV-bike scheme is very popular among commuters. Photo © Holland-Cycling.com
What is the OV-bike scheme?
The OV-bike scheme is the largest bike sharing scheme in Holland. The bikes are available at 250 train stations and has 180,000 members. The scheme was introduced back in 2003 to encourage the use of public transport. Hence the name "OV-fiets" which translates as "Public Transport bike".
When travelling by public transport, it's often the first and last leg of the journey that are most inconvenient and time consuming. The idea behind the OV-bike scheme was to provide a quick and easy way to cover these short distances. In a country so used to cycling, the OV-bike soon became a great success. There are now 8,500 of these characteristic yellow-and-blue bikes. You'll see them in the streets all over Holland. The OV-bike has even become so popular, that some trains stations regularly run out of bikes.
The OV-bike scheme is aimed at commuters and other travellers who want to get from the station to their destination as quickly and with as little fuss as possible. The bikes are simple, sturdy and not ideal for long distances, although people do use them for longer recreational trips. The scheme is subscription based: a small fee is deducted from your bank account every time you use an OV-bike. This means that the scheme is not open to cyclists from abroad who don't have a Dutch bank account. They can use the regular bike rental services that are available at all larger train stations.
Since 2010 the number of trips made on the OV-bike has more than doubled from 600,000 to 1,5 million trips a year. Dutch Rail says that the use of the OV-bike is growing so fast there is a need for more bikes. Three major train stations already face a chronic shortage of bikes: Amsterdam Sloterdijk, Amsterdam Amstel and The Hague Central Station.
Over the next three years the number of OV-bikes is to be increased by at least a thousand bikes a year. Dutch Rail will also be introducing a new model of bike to replace the current OV-bikes. They say there is nothing wrong with the old bikes, but the model dates back 5 years. To find out which bike today's traveller prefers, cyclists in Utrecht were asked to test ride six new models. One of the test riders was professional BMX rider Sietse van Berkel. His approach to testing was slightly unconventional, as you'll see in the video below.
Watch a video of professional BMX rider Sietsen van Berkel testing the new OV-bike (in Dutch)
For more on bike rental and how the OV-bike scheme works, go to Bike rental.