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«Bike sharing is the ideal supplement to public and private transport for short distances»

Markus Bacher has been the managing director of Switzerland’s largest bike sharing company PubliBike AG since 2020. In this interview, he talks about the idea behind PubliBike and how the cooperation with armasuisse came about.

Joller Romy, specialist area communication, resources and support

Markus Bacher stands between parked bycicles at a bike station in Berne and is looking into the camera while holding on a bike.
Markus Bacher, CEO of PubliBike AG at a bike station in Berne.

What’s the idea behind PubliBike?

A team of 35 motivated colleagues who work every day to get a little closer to our goal of enabling as many people as possible to be mobile without gaps. Bike sharing is the ideal supplement to public and private transport for short distances. This relieves traffic in city centres and increases the attraction of public transport. In Switzerland, we represent this mobile, urban and sustainable service. Our activities aim to contribute to the transformation of mobility, thus finding solutions to reducing the impact of traffic on the environment. Be this commuting to work, going shopping or visiting friends. In addition, exercise is good for your well-being and keeps you fit.

Facts and figures on PubliBike

  • 8 bike rental networks in Switzerland (Nyon, Lausanne, Fribourg, Berne, Zurich, Sion, Sierre, Lugano)
  • 5000 bikes, half of which are e-bikes, which can be rented and returned at 500 stations
  • 147,000 registered customers, and this figure is increasing every day
  • 6 million trips since 2018, on peak days up to 14,000 trips per day
  • Considerably more trips are made with e-bikes – depending on the network between two and four times as many
  • Riding a PubliBike is still a man’s domain. 70% of the journeys are made by men and 30% by women.

Why do you see the federal government as a suitable partner for promoting PubliBike?

The federal government has several locations, including, in particular, the city and agglomeration of Berne. The direct route by bike – and especially with an e-bike – is often the fastest way of getting from A to B. This is the experience we have had for several years now with the federally-owned companies SBB, the Post and PostAuto, as well as the Insel Group. Currently, business trips account for almost half of all trips in our eight networks.

Why did you choose armasuisse as a pilot project partner?

We found each other. First of all, we had already been communicating with armasuisse for a long time on the subject of employee mobility, and then in summer 2020 came the initiative at federal level with a similar goal. Thus a project for armasuisse became a project at federal level.

What were the special challenges in this project?

As in almost every project, it was the time factor. We were determined to be ready together at the start of «Bike to work 2020». Up to then, several tasks needed to be performed on both sides. From compliant sourcing from a federal perspective to making our system technically fit, in order to enable users access to our bikes. Thanks to the smooth, dedicated cooperation on both sides, we will able to achieve the goal.

What do you advise your customers/subscribers, so that they can use the PubliBikes even during the cold, wet days?

There’s no bad weather, only the wrong clothes. But joking apart, bike riding is weather-dependent, but not dependent on the seasons. On a dry road, bike sharing is thus also very feasible in winter. It does you good to get on a bike from time to time in winter, it keeps your body and mind fit. From October/November, I always have gloves and a woollen cap in my work bag, so that I can get on a PubliBike at any time.

Do you personally make use of the offer? Do you also use the bike for your job mobility?

Of course. I ride a PubliBike to meetings several times a week. Particularly in the city of Berne and Fribourg. It’s important for me to be my own customer. So that I can see where we have improved and where there are still gaps in our system. I also very much appreciate the communication with our customers at the PubliBike stations. This direct feedback is very valuable.

Markus Bacher is riding a publibike passing lots of parked bycicles.
Markus Bacher is himself a regular, enthusiastic user of the PubliBike.

Has anything unexpected or amusing ever happened to you on one of your bike rides?

I once put my work folder into the basket of a PubliBike and wanted to unlock the bike. Then I got a phone call. After the call, I turned round, opened the bike next to it and rode off. But it was all right in the end. When I came back to the lending station, the folder was still there. I was lucky...

Brief profile

Markus Bacher (47), business economist and computer scientist, has been the managing director of Switzerland's largest bike sharing company PubliBike Ltd since 2020. Before PubliBike, he managed IT at the Post Group on a temporary basis as well as the IT operations of the Post for many years. He also manages the crisis organisation at group level for the Post. In his free time, he enjoys riding a bike and snowboarding. He lives with his wife and daughter in Zollikofen BE.