Publibike to travel cheaply: not anymore

I just wanted to share that Publibike is a good way to travel short distances every day but they just changed their subscriptions lately, which made it a no-go for budget conscious people.

It’s now not free to use an e-bike for 30 minutes, even with their more expensive subscription.

With b-fit abo first 30min are free for non-electric (99 CHF/year).

FYI some companies/universities have highly subsidized plans for employees, maybe ask if your employer is willing to do it.

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My employer even has a plan with which the first 30 minutes are free on electric and non-electric bikes, and it’s quite cheap.

So, I’ve been using Publibikes for half a year and this is my experience:

  • The normal bikes are kind of slow to start. You are trying to drive a heavy bike with small tyres and suboptimal gearing. Once you got it moving the bikes are ok, but I wouldn’t want to do any hills with it.

  • The e-bikes themselves are ok. They accelerate to 25km/h tops (usually a bit lower than that, I’d say). They are fully automatic, so usually you can’t exert any real amount of power until you hit 25km/h and you’re pedaling on empty. If you’re not driving up a steep incline, there is little to no exercise effect.

  • You can’t really rely on e-bikes. Many of them don’t work, are out of battery or have a defective motor. Especially during winter there seems to be a problem with getting the e-bikes open. I’d say usually ~70% of the bikes are functional but during the winter it can drop down to 50%).
    Forget about using them on a weekend, the batteries are not replaced and on sunday the e-bikes are usually all empty.

  • Now let’s talk about something that I personally find quite annoying. The app records whenever you start a ride but doesn’t record whenever you end one. The ride usually closes a couple minutes to a couple hours after you locked your bike at a station. The first time I noticed a large lag I called the customer service (which is quite responsive, btw). They told me not to worry, “It just sometimes takes a lot of time to update on the app”.
    So this week I used the bike and noticed that one ride was ongoing even though I ended it quite some time ago. In the app they mention next to your ride something like “If you’ve closed your bike and the ride is ongoing, don’t worry”.
    Why is this a problem?
    Well, you can never check if you (or the system) has made a mistake. In this case me (or the system) didn’t properly lock the bike. Therefore the ride was ongoing and they charged me a full day, costing CHF 40. I’m in talk with Publibike and I guess I’ll see after the easter holidays if I actually have to pay.
    The problem isn’t only, that you might lose CHF 40 everytime you make a mistake. It also makes you worry all the time, whether you made a mistake. (If you forget to lock your normal bike. You have a 1-5% chance that it gets stolen. Here, every mistake is punished.)

Which city btw (I think in Zurich I’ve seen the publibike trucks on Sunday). One thing regarding battery is to check on the app to get the “right” bike with full batteries.

Bern. It’s possible that they are somewhat active on the weekend. But on sunday evening I hardly ever find a functioning e-bike. Not a big deal though :slight_smile:

Good point about the app. I usually just use my swisscard.

They will reimbourse you.
It’s even nastier than that.I had a bike that had issues and it’s electronic system probably crashed and wasn’t able to register the locking. Then some technician probably took the bike to repair but might have forgotten to register that or wasn’t able since it was crashed. So I had a bike booked for more than 4 days until they might have switched it on again and the system found it and correct the problem. Another time I had a bike lock frozen that didn’t open. It showed that was locked. I tried another bike and I got it working. The problem is that the first bike was also unlocked according to the system. With the new system that was in service before the change of abo, it was/is possible to rent two bikes at a time, where the first was yours (free on my abo) and the second had to be paid… Big mess. Support is super responsive, helpful and did solve all my issues. Probably because they know the whole system is a big unorganized mess.

At the end I stopped using it only for the additional costs that I incur with the new costs levels. I hated looking for a bike and walk a bit on one of the stops I usually use, but it wasn’t so bad. Even the typical issues were mostly easy to solve (I did also hate the saddles when they were pointing upwards).
At the beginning I had to call the support like once per week for unclosed bookings. They might have improved the software.

You were right, I will be refunded. No questions asked.

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