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Bachelor thesis on rental bikes: Where do Bonn people like to rent bicycles?

Bachelor thesis on rental bikes : Where do Bonn people like to rent bicycles?

Am Hofgarten, in the Rheinaue or at the Kennedy Bridge: Rental bikes are now part of the cityscape in Bonn. Moritz Kistenfeger from Bonn has now carried out a scientific study of where most of the bikes from the supplier "Nextbike" are rented.

The gray bicycles with the blue and white protective coat and the QR code for scanning have been standing all over the city for almost two years now: Many people in Bonn take advantage of the Leipzig bicycle rental company "Nextbike" when they want to pedal a route. But at which places do the people of Bonn prefer to get on the saddle? And what exactly is the reason for this?

Moritz Kistenfeger has addressed these questions in his bachelor's thesis in the Department of Geography at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. "Analysing bike sharing demand using GIS: The example of Bonn, Germany", is the title of the 40-page final work by the Munich-born author. "It was all about which local characteristics influence the demand of Nextbike", the graduate explains in retrospect. The results of his study are also exciting for future projects, for example when bike rental companies want to establish their services in new areas. So far Nextbike, which cooperates with the municipal utilities in Bonn, is the only supplier in the city.

Nextbike in Bonn: free-floating system is popular

In Bonn, the so-called "free-floating" system is very popular, i.e. borrowing without a fixed stop. This way, Bonn residents can park their rented bikes in publicly accessible areas. "Every square metre is actually a station here," the student says.

Another observation: factors such as population density, retail trade or local transport connections all have an impact on the choice of rental bikes. Of particular interest to the student is the connection between local transport and renting: the fewer buses and trains there are, the more often Bonn residents switch to the alternative on two wheels.

This can be clearly seen on the banks of the Rhine. "We have high lending figures there. Especially on the Rhine at weekends," Kistenfeger sums up. The bicycle counting station near the Federal Audit Office recorded around 389,000 bicycles on the Wilhelm-Spiritus bank between June and August 2019. For comparison: since the beginning of 2020, around 559,000 bicycles have been counted there so far, which interested parties can view on the eco-public.com website on a daily basis.

An exciting result is also evident in the government district: During the week, many people get on their bikes there, at weekends rather less. However, new "borrowing hotspots" were then formed - for example at the museums or at the entrance to the Rheinaue. Nextbikes are also in great demand at typical student corners such as the campus in the city centre.

Kistenfeger evaluated a data set of about 300,000 rentals that were made in the city area between June and August last year. During this period, a particularly large number of people had borrowed one of the 900 Nextbike bikes. "Bonn is a clean example of bike sharing and, as a size, pleasant to analyse," the 25-year-old explains the city choice for his study. He is also familiar with Bonn as a place to study. So far 63,089 users have registered with Nextbike here.

Connection to local traffic plays a major role

Using a regression analysis - a statistical method - Kistenfeger divided the areas of Nextbike's "Service Area" into cells measuring 100 by 100 meters in order to spatially calculate demand. Within the almost 10,000 cells, he then compared the number of rentals with factors such as population density, retail, office space, local transport connections, university and various leisure facilities. He also looked at which days of the week the bikes were used and how.

In general, according to Kistenfeger, the analysis of the different weekdays shows: "You can see very clearly that people get up later on weekends. Then the borrowing curve rises between seven and twelve o'clock, while during the week it reaches its peak at eight o'clock in the morning: the typical time for commuters on their way to work or university. Incidentally, at weekends the Bonners pedal particularly often around midnight.

More parking spaces for rental bikes in the city

Although Kistenfeger has not yet received a final grade for his work, which he completed in June, he has already passed. In September he now wants to start his masters degree in urban planning in Amsterdam. "I have always been interested in transport policy," he says.

And what else does he take away from his bachelor thesis? "It is absolutely essential that you can drive right up to your front door." That's why the free-floating system is so important. At the same time, he understands the criticism that the wheels shouldn't just stand around in the middle of the sidewalk in residential areas.

In his opinion, there must therefore be more parking spaces. However, a spokeswoman for the city of Bonn said that the city's public order service only received occasional complaints about "unfavorably parked rental bikes". In such cases, the provider would be contacted who would remove the respective bikes. "There are efforts, among other things through better labelling of the stations, to encourage users to park their bikes more often at these locations", the city said. The rental system is constantly being evaluated.

Over 1.8 million kilometres travelled

Since the launch of Nextbike in Bonn in October 2018, the offer has "developed into a success factor with astonishing speed", as a spokesman for the municipal utilities company said in response to a GA enquiry. "Already in the first month of operation, there were 12,000 rentals. Since then, the numbers have risen steadily," he explained. Over 1.8 million kilometres have been covered with the rental bikes so far, and users have borrowed them around 1.3 million times. The first step was therefore initially 200 bikes and 20 stations. In the meantime, the fleet has been increased to around 900. And the 70 stations so far are to be gradually increased to 100.

Original text: Sabrina Szameitat

Translation: Mareike Graepel