Moscow is a big city. Get around while studying abroad by renting bikes or scooters. Below are some experiences that SRAS students have had in doing just that with various rental points.
Walking throughout the big city of Moscow can be extremely tiring sometimes, especially if one is simply trying to explore an area nearby or wants to quickly cover distance to see an interesting spot farther away. Hunter, Miles and I fell into the former group when we decided to rent bicycles and ride around the city for a few hours one beautiful, warm day after class. The bike rental shop we found, called Крути педали (Kruti Pedali – the name means “turn the pedals” in Russian), is located directly off of Университетский проспект (University Prospect). If you are arriving from the Университет (Universitet) metro station or the Академическя (Akademicheskaya) metro station, it is an easy 20 minute walk from either. Once you are looking directly at Университетский проспект, д. 6, корп. 1, Крути педали is found on the bottom floor of the left-hand side of the building.
Крути педали is a small, one-room shop with bikes hanging from all four walls. When they are open, the employees always keep a few bicycles lined up on the sidewalk out front of the store to attract customers. To rent bikes from Крути педали, you simply show up and speak with one of employees standing outside. The employees that we have encountered were not able to speak English. However, if you do not understand the rental prices or need to ask a question, they are able to write down numbers and point in the direction you may need. When Hunter and I went to ask for prices, we were handed a brochure written in Russian. The brochure listed the different rental rates, biking paths that one can take as well as information on bike safety.
Prices are given for by the hour or for multiple days, if you want to keep it awhile.
After you arrive and choose your bike, you do not pay for your rental immediately. The employees gather one license, passport or other official ID from your group to keep as collateral while you are out with the bike rentals. The actual payments for the bikes are made after you return with the bike to the shop. In this way, they know how much to charge based on the amount of time you spent riding their bicycles.
Крути педали offers bicycles in all shapes and sizes, including a city bicycles (easy-riders), mountain bicycles and tandem bicycles. We three chose a mountain bike style because they already had a few sitting out in front of the shop. The employees made sure to fill up the tires with air before allowing us to continue on our adventure. Be sure to pay attention to their hours if you would like to rent bikes because during the week the shop is only open from 4:00pm to midnight, but on the weekends the time is extended to 11:00am to midnight. Being in Russia, I have found that it is more enjoyable to ride later in the day because the sun has warmed up the air, and there are many more Russian people walking about to people-watch as you ride along!
When we rented our bikes around 5:00pm that day, we decided to go to the park to ride down the steep paths in the shade of the big trees. The park where we began is called Воробьёвы горы (Vorobyovy Gory; Sparrow Hills) and it is located about a 5 to 10 minute bike ride from Крути педали and even closer to Moscow State University. After speeding downhill and weaving in and out of Russian pedestrians, we found ourselves passing straight through the park to the large paved walkway that follows along the Moscow River passing by the Воробьёвы го́ры metro station.
Along this pathway in the summer there are always hundreds of people riding bikes, rollerskating, tanning, walking and eating. These people make the ride beside the Moscow River very enjoyable and extremely interesting. In addition, the path is meant for bikes and pedestrians, meaning that you can ride at a casual and steady pace with a minimal number of vehicles needing to pass. We rode along the Moscow River, stopped to enjoy watching people taking a salsa dancing lesson on the boardwalk and continued on into Парк Горького (Gorky Park). In Парк Горького, it is easy to ride along the paths, but you must be sure not to run into skateboarders, pedestrians and other bikers, which are even more numerous here. The highlight of our adventure was being able to watch true Russian street dancers that were out near the front arches of Парк Горького. They were dressed in a mix of 80’s/90’s American-style clothing and danced to cheesy street-music was in English-language which made our experience truly exciting as they flipped and danced around the sidewalk. After a little while of observing, we continued on our bike ride back to our homes for dinner, full of stories from our bike renting adventure!
500 Locations Across Moscow
The company Velobike, whose name is an amalgamation of the English and Russian words for bicycle, have followed the example of cities such as Washington D.C. and London in establishing a city-wide bike sharing program that operates on a username and password, subscription basis. After subscribing, all any user needs to do is go to any one of more than 500 locations across Moscow, enter his or her information, and go. What’s even more convenient about the system is that if you possess a reloadable metro card (Troika), you can enter that number into Velobike’s application when you subscribe and all you have to do is scan the card on a bike and go.
What is arguably best about Velobike besides its convenience and abundance of locations is the fact that it is cheap enough to work on a regular student budget. If you purchase a monthly subscription as I did, you will pay a base fee of 600 rubles (about 9 dollars). Individual uses are a base fee of about 160 rubles (3 dollars) and then the cost is added onto in 30-minute increments. As such, a monthly subscription is definitely the best value for money if you plan to ride multiple times. You will still have to pay for individual uses, but they are at a cut rate and the only time I paid more than 5 dollars for riding was on a 3-hour stint.
There is also the “loophole” that riding for the first 30 minutes is no additional charge, which means that technically you can retrieve a bike form any station in the city, ride for 30 minutes, and then dock it and get another one out to avoid any further charges. While that may become a bit tedious after awhile, the sheer number of Velobike locations across the city makes doable if you’re looking to save a little money while enjoying going for a ride.
Overall, using Velobike to go and see the city in a different way is a great experience, and I would definitely recommend it. A lot of stations are placed within and outside of Moscow’s numerous parks, including VDNKH and Gorky Park, which are incredibly bike friendly and offer miles upon miles of trails. Besides that, one can ride on the river embankment, which has extensive infrastructure for cyclists, roller bladers, runners, and so forth. This is a great way to sightsee and to spend a weekend when you’re looking for something to do. Otherwise, simply use bikes to get to and from the metro so you don’t have to walk, which could even help shorten commutes.