Sydney, Melbourne adopt bike-sharing schemes

Two Australian cities have started bike-sharing schemes. Melbourne (above) has embraced Singapore's oBike, while Sydney is set to start with a scheme called Reddy Go, backed by China's Bluegogo. However, the new dockless schemes have raised concerns
Two Australian cities have started bike-sharing schemes. Melbourne (above) has embraced Singapore's oBike, while Sydney is set to start with a scheme called Reddy Go, backed by China's Bluegogo. However, the new dockless schemes have raised concerns about how they will be controlled to ensure bikes are properly parked, and riders comply with road rules.PHOTO: OBIKE AUSTRALIA

Australia's two largest cities are adopting a new breed of bike-sharing schemes - one of them from Singapore, and both from Asia.

Melbourne has embraced Singapore's oBike as the first "dockless" bikes in Australia, while Sydney is scheduled to start with a Chinese version.

oBike started a trial of several hundred shiny yellow bikes in Melbourne's city centre last month. The bikes are free under the trial but will ultimately cost A$1.99 (S$2.10) per 30 minutes.

Pedestrians in the city recently started noticing the bikes, which feature a sign with instructions on how to use the app-based scheme. "Hello obiker! Please ride me away!" the signs say.

Already, Australians and visitors alike seem to have taken to the shiny additions to the city's streets.

"It was easy," Ms Morgana Robinson, a visitor from Queensland, told Melbourne's Herald Sun recently.

"The bikes are easy to scan and use - we could literally end up anywhere."

MARKETING TOOL

The big benefit from a bike-share scheme is that it increases transport choice.It saves time and reduces congestion and pollution, and encourages exercise. It provides a city with a great marketing tool. It has almost become a symbol now for an international, sustainable progressive city.

DR ELLIOT FISHMAN, an expert on bike share schemes and director of transport innovation at the Institute for Sensible Transport, a non-government organisation in Melbourne.

Sydney is not far behind. A scheme called Reddy Go, backed by China's Bluegogo, is scheduled to start with 160 bikes across the city centre in mid-July.

Reddy Go plans to put 6,000 bikes in Sydney by the end of the year, with 480 bikes due to be released in the inner-city in August, followed by further releases in the outer suburbs.

The initial bikes will be red and will cost A$1.99 per 30 minutes.

Reddy Go's founder Donald Tang said its bikes are designed to deal with Sydney's hills.

"Sydney is not flat (like Melbourne is). It's up and downhill," Mr Tang told the Broadsheet website. "We designed our bikes with three-speed gears."

Reddy Go's app is being designed by Chinese mobile gaming firm Elex Technology, whose founder Tang Binsen invested in Bluegogo and is funding Reddy Go.

Sydney, which has heavy vehicular traffic and plenty of steep hills, is not a particularly bike-friendly city and does not have a bike-sharing scheme.

Melbourne, which is flatter and has a planned grid street layout, has a dock-based bike scheme in the city centre but it has had mixed success. Last year, bikers took some 170,000 trips there - a relatively small number for a city of 4.6 million.

The new dockless schemes have raised concerns about how they will be controlled to ensure bikes are properly parked, and riders comply with road rules and Australia's compulsory helmet laws.

An expert on bike-share schemes, Dr Elliot Fishman, director of transport innovation at the Institute for Sensible Transport, a non-government organisation in Melbourne, told The Sunday Times the dockless bikes were a great concept but were "operating in a policy vacuum".

He expressed concern about potential privacy issues, noting that schemes can potentially track the phone locations of users even when they were not riding bikes. In addition, he said, the oBike scheme, which penalises users who behave irresponsibly - such as by parking in an undesignated spot - could leave users paying high costs of as much as A$20 for 30 minutes.

"Dockless bikes have a lot more flexibility and are cheaper to roll out and can be cheaper for the user," he said.

"There is a place for them in Australian cities. But there should be a regulatory code of practice, including regulations to ensure quality, maintenance requirements, pricing and privacy protocols."

State governments have yet to reveal any specific enforcement measures for the dockless bikes.

Schemes in countries such as Singapore and China have run into trouble over poor parking which can block pedestrians and even incidents in which bikes have been thrown off buildings or into canals.

As yet, there have apparently been no such incidents in Australia.

oBike's Melbourne scheme will be officially launched later this year and is supposed to extend across the city and inner city suburbs.

Dr Fishman said bike-sharing schemes were useful as a mode of transport and also helped to improve a city's global image.

"The big benefit from a bike-share scheme is that it increases transport choice," he said. "It saves time and reduces congestion and pollution, and encourages exercise."

He added: "It provides a city with a great marketing tool. It has almost become a symbol now for an international, sustainable progressive city."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 02, 2017, with the headline 'Sydney, Melbourne adopt bike-sharing schemes'. Print Edition | Subscribe