A group of cafes in Brno, the Czech Republic’s second-largest city, has begun offering a sort of micro Citibike program to patrons. Buy a cup of coffee and, with a 300 Crown ($16 USD) deposit, they’ll lend you a bike. Simply return the bike by end of day to any of the five participating shops.
The program isn’t exactly built for commuters. You wouldn’t be able to grab a coffee to-go, hop on a bike, and ride to work — and not just because you might lose half your drink on the way over. Rather, Brno’s model encourages customer loyalty and community support of small business. Patrons might enjoy a nice breakfast before borrowing one of the cafe’s red folding bikes and taking a leisurely ride around town or running a couple errands. However, Brno’s success proves that bike-sharing can be a local enterprise, too, not just for big names like Citibank and big cities like New York or DC.
None of the businesses hired on additional staff to maintain the bikes, which are stored where each participating store has some extra space. None have had problems with theft or abuse, either — somewhat surprisingly, considering problems Citibike has faced.
The Brno cafe employee who came up with the idea, Pavel Badura, said he’s been unable to find evidence of any other similar project the world over. Ideally, the network of bikes would grow slowly enough to allow time for logistical adjustments. Badura also notes that the bike-borrowers have been a trustworthy lot:
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the fact that those who borrow the bikes are so responsible. I expected that all of the cafés involved would have to keep a closer eye on things and put more effort into getting people to return the bikes and to treat them well. But so far it’s been quite the opposite.