In addition to StadtRAD, the competing NextBike system also has a large number of bikes available on the streets of Hamburg.
NextBike is more expensive for short rides (EUR 1.00 per hour, starting from the first minute) but less expensive for a whole day (EUR 8.00 for twenty-four hours instead of EUR 12.00, which is what StadtRAD charges). -- Prices as of 2011.
On two of my days in Hamburg I needed a bike all day, since I had places to go in outlying parts of the city, so I checked out bikes from NextBike and was, as always, very satisfied with them.
I have also used the NextBikes in Dresden and Leipzig, among other German cities. In Dortmund I used the Metropolradruhr system which is run by NextBikes on behalf of ten cities in the Ruhr Valley.
Next review: ADFC bicycle map
Although you see lots of people on bicycles in Hamburg, especially in the summer, the sad fact is that at last count, according to city statistics, only 9 % of trips within the city were done by bicycle.
Even Frankfurt am Main does better than that (up from 9% to 15%), not to mention Bremen with 22% or Münster with 37.6%.
The city of Hamburg has set an official goal of doubling bicycle use within the next few years, for instance by building more bicycle lanes, by giving cyclists an earlier green light at intersections and by providing more and better bicycle parking. Also the new bicycle sharing systems (next two reviews) are helping to increase bicycle use within the city.
Next review: StadtRAD bicycle sharing
In Hamburg there are two competing bicycle sharing systems. The one with the bright red bikes, StadtRAD (meaning CityBIKE), turns out to be simply the familiar DB CallBikes under a different name.
The main difference is that in Hamburg the first thirty minutes of each ride are free. If you keep a bike longer than thirty minutes, they start charging EUR 0.04 per minute, or EUR 0.03 per minute if you have a BahnCard from the German railways (which I do) or an HVV card from the Hamburg public transit system.
On my first evening in Hamburg I used the StadtRAD bikes several times. Since I was already registered with the DB CallBike system I did not have to register again, but could simply check out a bike with my cellphone as I do in other German cities. Most of my rides were under thirty minutes, so they cost nothing, but my last ride lasted thirty-two minutes because I stopped several times to take photos, so at the end of the month they billed me all of EUR 0,06 for the two extra minutes. They have not bothered to deduct this amount from my credit card, however, because the transaction would have cost them more than the amount I was billed.
Second photo: On a StadtRAD near the Dammtor railway station.
Third photo: StadtRAD station 2212 (Universität / Moorweidenstraße). This is a popular station because it is located near the main building of the university. The building in the background is the Dammtorpalais, where stayed in one of the hotels.
Fourth photo: On a StadtRAD near the Heine House on the Jungfernstieg.
Fifth photo: On a StadtRAD in the Neustadt, the (relatively) new part of the city center.
Next review: NextBike bicycle sharing
One of the first things I did after arriving in Hamburg was to buy an ADFC bicycle map, which was on sale at one of the railway stations.
This is an excellent map and came in very handy, especially since I had places to go and people to see in some outlying districts of Hamburg where I had never been before. The map cost me all of EUR 5.90, which is an unusually low price for a map of this quality.
ADFC is the General German Bicycle Club, which promotes the use of bicycles as a means of daily transportation. I am of course a member of the ADFC, but in Frankfurt, not Hamburg.
Second photo: ADFC Hamburg office at Koppen 34-36.
Next review: Hamburg Central Station
Whilst the city centre is immensely walkable and the public transport system excellent and easy-to-navigate if you do fancy getting around by bicycle there's a useful, and simple-to-use, city bike hire facility.
These easily recognisable red bicycles are parked at over 70 locations around the city, including at U and S bahn stations, and following a pre-registration can be used for about 1.20 euros an hour (with a price-cap of 12 euros per day). The first half hour is free and so ideal for short journeys too, although you would need to plan your route between rack locations.
Website below has all the details and an English language button.
We rented a bike that was pretty good and not expensive at all. However, for a dutch person it was quiet hard to cycle in Hamburg because there are hardly any bike lanes or paths. Most Germans seem to cycle on the sidewalk instead. That was scary!