While many cafés in the Czech Republic offer patrons a complimentary sweet or a glass of water with their cup of coffee, a growing number in the country’s second city Brno are providing something altogether more unusual – the free use of a bicycle. Under the novel scheme, customers can borrow a bike at one café and return it at another.
All patrons need to do is leave a deposit of CZK 300 (which organisers say is more than the value of their locks, never mind the bikes themselves) and away they go. They can return the red, folding two-wheelers at any of the businesses in the network.
The project is the brainchild of Pavel Baďura, who works for the Trojka café on the city’s Dominikánská St. He says he has been unable to find evidence of a project run exactly along its lines elsewhere in the world.
“I’m interested in urban cycling and in public, civic spaces in cities and enlivening such spaces. I work in a café that’s engaged in such projects, so I had the idea of getting it involved in cycling and creating a network of bike rentals – because we run bike bazaars and events like that. I just wanted to shake things up a bit!”
Since Trojka launched the system towards the end of last year, three other alternative cafés in Brno have signed up. Last weekend, a local branch of the Sokol sports organisation also became a member, the news site iDnes.cz reported.
“As soon as we started it, other cafés that liked the idea began getting on board. Now more places that have heard about it are expressing an interest. But I always tell them they need to consider the logistics of the whole thing. What’s more, its voluntary work; no café employs somebody to look after the bikes – its extra work for all of the staff. But we want to grow gradually, because the influx of bikes could get too big.”
Reaction to date has in the main been positive, says Baďura.
“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.”