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Automatic bike rentals in Astana may become available all year round

©facebook.com/sustainable transport almaty ©facebook.com/sustainable transport almaty

Automatic bike rentals appeared in Kazakhstan's Astana last year. But the bikes were up for taking only during warm seasons - usually starting from April and lasting until the first snow. Now, the organizers are thinking about extending the availability of the bikes into the wintertime, Tengrinews reports citing Velobike company.

“In order to promote cycling in Astana, together with experts from Oulu (Finland), Astana's twin-city, we are studying the conditions we have to create to enable the use of the bicycles in wintertime," Velobike company said.

According to the company, the new season started on April 15. “This year, we plan to bring the number of stations to 150, this way we will have nearly 1,000 bikes out there. The new stations will be installed gradually in accordance with our schedule,” the company said.

When the project was first launched in 2014, it included 40 stations with 200 bikes, all of them located at the left bank of the Ishim River in Astana city, but now the company plans to spill into the right bank part of the city as well.

To be able to use a bike, one has to first register at the website, pay a one-time per season membership fee of 5,000 tenge and get a club card from the office. At this point one has to make a deposit for the card in the amount of 1,000 tenge, it is refunded after the card is returned in the end of the season. Besides, there must be at least 500 tenge on the card for a person to be able to use it to rent a bike. There is also a bank card payment option where one doesn't need a club card and uses SMSed codes instead. You can read the instructions here

A bike ride of 30 minutes or less is always for free, so as long as you return the bike to a station every 30 minutes you can ride all you way for free. A one hour ride costs 100 tenge, the second hour costs 250 tenge, the third one goes for 500 tenge, afterwards each additional hour costs 1,000 tenge.  

577 people have got registered in the system and 1,210 - on the website last year. They rented bikes 15,116 times riding 4,442 hours and 29,206 km in total.

Velobike company is introducing new payment methods this season. Now the cards are available online. “When using the Astana bike system, the users may get a registered card at the sales department or use SMS codes. Such kind of rental is convenient for foreigners and non-Astana residents. One registers on the website, pays the required amount of money online, then a code is sent to the phone in an SMS and the person inputs the code at a bike station (to start using a bike),” the company said.

“To ease the use of the system and comply with recommendations and suggestions of users of the bike rental, a online payment system, mobile banking option (Halyk Bank) and mobile applications for Android and IOS have been launched. The apps are useful to identify the exact location of the station and check the availability of bikes," the company said.

Since the opening of the social project in Astana, many people have been saying that it is a comfortable means of transportation for them, because, unlike buses and cars, bikes can take shortcuts and it takes less time to get to wherever one is going, they do not pollute the air and are part of healthy lifestyle.

However, people have been calling for an improved infrastructure in Astana, like the dedicated roads for bike riders common for many European cities.

The project is funded by Samruk Kazyna National Wealth Fund.

The idea is fairly new for Kazakhstan, and with the project being so young the hopes are high that it will be improving every year, especially in a run-up to the EXPO-2017. 

Writing by Assel Satubaldina, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

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