This summer, I had the opportunity to check out one of the world’s largest bike share programs, Hangzhou Public Bicycle. The program sees about 250,000 trips per day on its 2,700 station, 66,500 bicycle system. And while that sounds like a lot of metal and rubber for one tourist to handle, with some tips and information outlined below, you’ll find that using and navigating the system is rather simple.

What you’ll need to bring
Passport
300 yuan (200 yuan for deposit and 100 Yuan for prepaid rental fee)

What you need to know
Rates:

Hours of operation:
6am-9pm. Users can still return bikes after 9pm at the 24hr Longxiangqiao Bike Station.

Location of Stations:
List and map of stations (translated in english)

Where you need to go to get started
Hangzhou Public Transport Coupon-Selling Centre (8am-5pm) located at 20 Longxiang Rd., which is improperly labeled as “Hangzhou Bus IC Card Service Center” in the map below.

Map of Hangzhou’s West Lake

How to get there
Hangzhou has done a great job integrating its bike share program to its robust transit network with stations located next to bus stops, subway stations, and high speed rail. If you’re arriving to Hangzhou by high speed rail, go here for detailed instructions on how to get to the Hangzhou Public Transport Coupon-Selling Centre.

How to register for Bike Share
1.) At the Hangzhou Public Transport Coupon-Selling Centre, request a Transportation IC card for the bike share. Don’t worry, most attendants speak English.

IMG_13832.) Present your passport for identification. You will receive a form to fill out your name and passport number.

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3.) Pay 300 yuan (approx. $50 USD) upfront and keep the receipt.

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4.) The attendant will issue you a temporary IC card (a.k.a. a “Z card” for visitors). To receive your deposit and the remaining balance on the card after you are done using the bike share, present the receipt and the IC card to the attendant at this location. (Tip: The IC card can also be used on buses, taxis, water buses and parking lots.)

IMG_75545.) A Hangzhou Public Bicycle employee will demonstrate how to check out and return a bicycle.

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How to use Hangzhou Public Bicycle
With the IC card, you can rent a bicycle from any bike share station. To check out a bike, tap your card over the card reader on the bike post and wait for the green light to signal before releasing the bike.IMG_1399To return the bike, push the bike clip located on the right side of the bike into the lock panel of the bike post as far as possible. If necessary, lift the bike up into the saddle at the same time to facilitate parking (see photo below). A green light followed by two successive beeps will confirm that the bike is locked correctly.

IMG_1390Suggested Bike Routes
There are multiple bike share service stations around the West Lake.  Grab a tourist map at any of these locations to map out your bike routes around the scenic West Lake. The transportation infrastructure in Hangzhou is bike-friendly (i.e., fewer cars on the road, dedicated bike lanes and medians, trees that provide shade, bike-only signals, and good way-finding signage), making for a stress-free ride.

Something to note, however–people are not allowed to ride their bikes inside the West Lake area, so be sure to stay on the marked bikeways. And you are allowed to ride the bike on the causeway (see bike route map below) adjacent to the lake.

Travel CNN.com mapped out the 5 best biking routes in Hangzhou. I took the Broken Bridge and Su Di Causeway 断桥与苏堤 5.4 km bike route. The view of the West Lake from the bridge is absolutely stunning. To view photos from my bike ride, go to our Facebook album here.

Broken Bridge and Su Di Causeway Bike Route

Using bike share is the best way to explore the city while getting a bigger bang for your buck. At the end of the day, I was able to get my 300 yuan back in full because I frequently returned my bike to the dock stations, staying under the free 60 minute limit, to explore inside the West Lake area by foot.