While walking in the centre is popular, an even more favourite means of transportation is the bicycle. As can be seen outside university buildings, bikes are widely used by students. The bicycle is the epitome of a student’s commute to college. And it gets easier every year! The city is constantly trying to streamline he traffic to create a safe shared environment for bikes and cars alike. Take for example the Zernikke Route, specially laid out bicycle paths from the city centre to Zernike campus where cyclists always have right of way.
Getting a bike 101
There are different ways to get a bike in Groningen. The first one is of course to buy a bike. New bikes are generally more expensive and hence very prone to theft. Buying a second hand bike is therefore a better option, since it’s a lot cheaper. You can do this at one of the countless bicycle shops in the city or online at Marktplaats or Facebook. You can also buy second hand bikes from the municipality. They sell bikes that were confiscated and never collected by the owner. Most of them are not all that fancy, but they are safe, have lights and are definitely not stolen! A third option is renting. You can rent bikes at rental places or get an OV-Bike (Public Transport Bikes) at the central station with your OV-Chipcard (Public Transport Card). The subscription based service Swapfiets rents bikes indefinitely for a fixed monthly fee, which they will maintain and fix for you if necessary, more about this below. You could also consider asking an international study association like ESN if there are exchange students leaving town who are willing to sell their bike.
Bike Safety and you
Traffic in the city can feel pretty lawless if you experience it for the first time, especially on a bike. If you need some help learning how to ride a bicycle, you’re able to take bicyce classes, for example via ESN. Bike safety is also: locking your bike to prevent theft. Besides the regular wheel locks it is wise to get a sturdy hard chain lock. Securing your two-wheeler to a bike rack will greatly reduce the chance of it getting stolen. Which brings us to the last point: don’t buy bikes from people on the streets. It’s likely you’ll make yourself complicit in fencing a stolen bike, which can result in getting a criminal record. Besides it being illegal you also contribute to the demand and supply of stolen bikes.
Paying a monthly fee for a bike is a relatively new phenomenon to hit Groningen but it’s hitting hard. If you haven’t noticed already, the city centre has an ever increasing number of ‘Swapfiets’. These bikes all look almost identical. They have an iconic blue front tire and slick black paint. When parked next to the average city bike they look particularly inviting.
Swapfiets are available in many other cities throughout The Netherlands however they’ve only come to Groningen in 2017 with an office on Westerbinnensingel 15. Swapfiets are available through the start-up ‘Swapfiets’ or ‘SwapBike’ in English. Their simple mission: to reduce all bike related stress (bike lights, repairs, locks). Did your Swapfiets break down? It’s cool. Swapfiets will send a repairperson to your location! Repair persons are available between 08:00AM to 22:00PM. All in all the monthly total for a Swapfiets rakes up to just €12,- a month with an active student card and €15,- without.
For this amount they make some guarantees:
(picture with permission from www.swapfiets.nl)
You are provided with a high quality bike: The original Swapfiets (above) bike has a retro design, sturdy frame, back and front lights, bell and a blue front tire with double rims. The bike has a back pedal coaster brake and a single gear. Notably, there is no “backseat” which a traditional Dutch bike usually has. Geen achterop!
Flexibility of services: bike subscriptions can be terminated with a months’ notice. There is no deposit.
Stress free: Repairs can be sorted out at your location.
What if my Swapfiets get stolen?
If a bike is locked with the provide AXA chain lock it should be almost impossible to steal. However, in the rare chance that a Swapfiets does get stolen it will cost you a €40,- one off fee. If it was locked with only the back wheel lock it will cost you €60,-. (not too sure how they verify this!)
- Swapfiets bikes are very comfortable and high quality.
- Swapfiets bike repair service comes to you!
- If you’re irregularly in Groningen or are coming for exchange it’s cheaper than buying a new bike.
- Bike lights supplied.
- There is no “backseat” but there is a front seat. However this is a good excuse for not having to transport that one friend without a bike on your backseat.
- Your bike isn’t actually yours
- You can’t spray paint your bike
All in all… a Swapfiets may not be a typical student bike that may gradually litter parts on the route to Zernike or end up at the bottom of a canal but Swapfiets are here to stay! They are also particularly useful for people visiting Groningen for an exchange semester.
Their website is: https://swapfiets.nl/en/groningen/