if it’s a nice day out and you’re feeling a bit energetic and don’t want to pay to use the city’s (excellent, and lovely-looking, i must say — especially the new trainsets) public transportation system, go for Citybike! (note that while their website is in German, the automated rental kiosks are multilingual, including English.)
while the rental policies are similar to bike share programs in other cities, the biggest draw: it’s so easy (and cheap!) for visitors to use. only €1 to sign up, which you can do at any kiosk, and they take magnetic strip credit cards — you do not need a chip card. be sure to pick up a pamphlet at the kiosk which will show rental locations, and if you have a data plan on your smartphone, you can use Google Maps to plan a bike route and, if you can read (or semi-read) German, download an app to help you find nearby rental stations. here’s a PDF of their current station locations.
find a kiosk and press the flag corresponding to the language you want to use — i’m assuming most of y’all will be choosing the Union Jack.
in the lower part of the screen, you’ll see three options corresponding to your desired payment (and future “login”) method — Austrian ATM card, Citybike card, and credit card. press one of these to continue — you probably want credit card. they take Visa, MasterCard, and JCB. you will need to swipe this card every time you rent.
it will ask you to insert your card in the slot below the screen. follow the instructions on the keypad display — DO NOT remove your card before it says to remove it (something along the lines of “KARTE ENTNEHMEN”) or it will not be read properly. again, you can indeed use a card with a magnetic strip. note that each credit card can only rent out one bike at a time, so if there are multiple people in your party, each one will need to register with a separate credit card.
choose “Registration” and fill out the forms.
there’s also a screen where you can optionally put in your phone and email address. you will also need to type in a password that you will need every time you rent.
here’s the key rental information. again, only €1 to register (one-time charge), and as long as you return your bike to any station within one hour of taking it out, it’s FREE. if you need your bike for longer than one hour (doubtful, as you can pretty much get anywhere downtown within 15-20 minutes, even), stop at a station, return your bike, and wait 15 minutes before your next rental (maybe even the same bike, if you’re fond of it) for another free hour.
renting a bike
if you’ve just registered, you will immediately be taken to the bike selection screen, but if you’ve already registered and are renting again, switch the kiosk to English, tap the credit card button on the screen (or whatever you chose to register with), and insert and remove your card in the reader. you will be asked for your password before continuing.
note you’ll probably want to have already given the available bikes a once-over to find one that is in good condition and is to your liking. note that the seats adjust in height.
choose the stand number that corresponds to your bike.
walk over to the selected bike and pull it out of the stand. voila!
the basket is perfect for holding things like a cup from a Christmas market!
if you ever need to leave the bike unattended, the front wheel has a locking system (under the red flap).
riding your bike
the city center has well-marked lanes for bicycles. just follow the bike symbols (and people who are in front of you — bike riding seemed to be quite popular).
note that some intersections have bicycle-specific signals, although many of them are combined with the pedestrian signals.
returning your bike
once you get to your destination bike station, find an open stand and insert the bike into it. you MUST wait and watch for a green light on the stand or else the bike is not considered returned. you may need to pull it out and push it in again (insert it as straight as possible) because the paddle has to insert all the way into the lock. if you do not see the light start to blink (and then turn steady — wait for the steady light), you’ll need to keep trying. i had trouble with this — the key is to not insert the bike at an angle — straight as possible. GREEN LIGHT.
if you’re ever in doubt as to whether or not you’ve returned something, insert your credit card at the kiosk — it will tell you if it still thinks a bike is rented out with it.