For a few days this month, my trusty city bike was in repair. More than a little bereft, I wondered if any of Berlin’s new ride-sharing apps could help spice up my commute.
I’ll be honest: I was sulking over my bike and not in the best of moods as I signed up for Coup, the electric scooter service. Downloading the app was easy, but the video verification with a surprisingly friendly employee seemed – at the time – to be a huge faff. Off I stomped to find a nearby scooter.
Just 200m from my door, I found one of the distinctive grey-and-mint scooters that I’d started to see throughout town. My turn! Opening it up was easy. I put on the helmet, turned the throttle and… I was off! My ride from Mitte to the edges of Neukölln took just 20 minutes and it was so much fun weaving through the streets that I was grinning the whole way. I can’t say the same when I get off the U8!
At just €3 for 30 minutes, the cost is comparable to a BVG single ticket. There’s good availability within the areas it serves (Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg), and if you love it, you can get the whole day for €20. There are very few apps that I’ve used regularly after reviewing, but this has been one of them. I’m hooked. Bike? What bike?
Allygator is a homegrown shuttle service that groups users with similar journeys – much like my pals in London enjoy through Uber Pool. Developed by Berlin start-up Door-2-door, the app employs six or seven vans that ferry Berliners across the city, picking up others along the way. It’s still in its “pilot” phase till the end of May to lure in a critical mass of users, meaning rides are cheap – with a few crucial caveats. You can only start using the app after requesting an “invitation” code, which took me about a week. Its six or seven vans are only active in Berlin’s individual eastern and western halves (meaning you can’t get from Kotti to Ku’damm) and, here’s the rub, only on Fridays between 5pm and 1am. When I finally tried it, a black VW minibus flying Allygator flags picked me up after about a six-minute wait. The driver warned me he might have to make detours to pick up other app users, but I ended up being the sole passenger in a cushy, door-to-door ride from Mitte to Neukölln that cost me – wait for it – 35 cents. I can’t speak for what Allygator will be like once it’s actually up and running, but if you’ve got somewhere to go on a Friday night in May, you’d be a fool not to give it a shot.
The supermarket chain has paired with Deutsche Bahn to take over DB’s “Call a Bike” system, and since March, the dockless green and silver bikes have been available in cities throughout Germany to those who sign up, either online or via the Lidl bike app (iOS & Android). I opted for the “basic” tariff, with a €3 annual fee. Every hire costs €1.50 for the first 30 minutes, and €1 for every 30 minutes after that, or €15 per day. After entering my payment details, I was officially a member (no extra validation needed) and ready to go. With about 3500 bikes in Berlin, finding an available ride was easy. With a couple of clicks, I was able to open the bike and off I went. The bike itself was basic, but pretty robust and comfortable with a little rack at the back (for all your Lidl shopping, of course), and functioning lights for nighttime – a step up for me! Ending the ride was similarly easy. The free-standing bikes can be left at any area within the permitted zone, unlike their predecessors which had to be taken to docks. As a bike owner, it’s not something I can see myself using too often, but handy next time mine’s in the shop.