Dockless bike schemes across Australia’s major cities are being left in absurd places – perched in trees, thrown into waterways and packed into piles on busy footpaths.
Angry residents or irresponsible riders – no one knows who is responsible – but councils nonetheless are being forced into action against the proliferating schemes.
This week the councils of Melbourne, Port Phillip and Yarra signed a Memorandum of Understanding with dockless bike share operator oBike, specifying guidelines the company must follow in order to ensure and improve public safety and amenity.
“There is no argument when it comes to the benefits of cycling,” City of Melbourne transport portfolio chair Nicolas Frances Gilley said.
“It’s great for health and it helps reduce traffic congestion. At City of Melbourne we are continually looking at ways to promote cycling and make it easier for people to use bikes, but the safety of all city users shouldn’t be compromised in the process.”
Under the MOU, the oBike will be responsible for ensuring oBikes:
- do not obstruct footpath access
- are parked upright at all times
- are not parked on steps, ramps or other areas that provide directional assistance to the vision impaired
- are parked away from roadside kerbs and are not parked on traffic islands or against trees, buildings, light poles or street furniture
- are relocated within two hours if dangerously placed
- reported as faulty, damaged or unsafe are immediately removed from service and must also be removed from the public realm within 24 hours until repaired
- are relocated within 48 hours if inappropriately placed
- in excessive numbers at a single location are relocated within 24 hours
- are monitored regularly to avoid and manage potential breaches of the agreement
The three municipalities must determine what is considered an appropriate location to park the bikes, inform the company of damaged or abandoned bikes and notify oBike about confiscated bikes and collection fees, which are set by each council.
If oBike fails to comply with their responsibilities, compliance officers from the three different cities can confiscate and impound the bikes. They will only be released if a $AU50 bike impound release fee is paid within the 14-day impound period. Failure to pay the fee in time will see the bikes recycled.
Several larger companies have expressed interest in launching dockless bike share schemes in greater Melbourne in the coming months, with the three councils to seek similar MOUs.
They are also still calling on the Victorian government to establish arrangements such as safe bike parking and regulatory responses that councils do not have the power to enforce.
Despite the issues, many councils still support dockless bike share.
“oBikes have been a new and unexpected challenge for our city,” City of Yarra mayor Amanda Stone said.
“Through the MOU we are taking a proactive approach to managing them whilst encouraging people who may not be regular cyclists to give riding a go. We’re optimistic that shared bikes can support cycling and public transport use by providing a ‘last mile’ solution.”
Problem growing in NSW
Bike share has been operating in Sydney for three months now, with three companies in use: ReadyGo, oBike and Airbike, which launched at the University of Sydney’s Camperdown campus just last week, according to a City of Sydney spokesman.
In Sydney alone, over 60,000 people have downloaded the app that allows them to locate a bike and pay for it, however, the city has received only 29 queries and complaints over the past three months to 30 September 2017, the spokesman said.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore wrote to Premier Gladys Berejiklian in June asking the government to develop appropriate and effective bike share management, but the letter was passed to the minister for roads and minister for innovation, and no action has yet been taken.
The City of Sydney has had numerous meetings with bike share companies and neighbouring councils, but, unlike Victoria, NSW has made no definitive moves, towards regulating bike share, such as allocating parking spaces for bikes.
The Inner West Council is now attempting to bring together Waverley, Randwick, Woollahra and the City of Sydney to develop a system of regulation.
“It’s great to see commercial operations moving into Sydney, but we need a consistent regulatory framework across the metropolitan area,” Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne said.
“We have to protect the safety and accessibility of our footpaths and roads.”
Dockless bike schemes have also caused chaos on the streets and kerbs of China, where most of Australia’s market operators originate.
Beijing recently banned the delivery of new shared bikes to the city’s 15 sharing companies, as riders can already access an astounding 2.4 million shared bikes in the city alone.