Cycling in Sydney Australia
Dockless bike share has come to Sydney, with two rival companies setting up within a few weeks of each other. Red and yellow bikes are becoming a common sight scattered around Sydney; indeed already a controversial sight as tempers flare about ‘blocked footpaths’. The authority that maintains the foreshore areas of Sydney have already started removing share bikes left in their precincts – which include a number of major tourist areas such as Darling Harbour.
Bike share schemes have been around for quite a long time, of course. Traditional schemes use docking stations to park the bikes; there are schemes such as this in Brisbane and Melbourne (I tried out the Melbourne one some time ago). They have been extremely popular almost everywhere in the world – with the exception of the schemes in Melbourne and Brisbane, which have been dismal failures. Why? Helmets, of course. If it’s illegal to ride a bike without a helmet, it kind of makes bike share schemes a bit of a non-starter. Including helmets with the bikes has been tried, but generally people don’t want to put a skanky, pre-used helmet on their heads, and in any case they tend to go missing.
So it remains to be seen how these new schemes will fair in Australia – and especially Sydney, with it’s eye-watering fines for helmet non-compliance. The bikes in the scheme do have helmets – but I saw a number of helmet-less ones around, so clearly they are already getting lost or stolen. Both schemes ask you to clip the helmet around the bike lock when you fish your ride, to secure it – but many bikes I saw had the helmets in the basket or hanging over the handlebars. Clipping the lock shut through the helmet straps is a bit fiddly, so I can see why people don’t bother.
Dockless bike share works via an app on your phone – you download the app, register, and then use your phone to scan the barcode on the bike. This causes the bike to magically unlock, and you can ride away. At the end of your ride you lock the bike up, and it registers the end of the trip and you are charged accordingly. The lock is an integrated one that goes through the back wheel, so it prevents the bike being ridden, but not from being moved or carried away. I have registered with both schemes and gone for some test rides - check out the forum for my take on the two schemes.
It remains to be seen if these schemes will be a success in Sydney. To my mind the environment is against them – a government generally hostile to cycling, apathy on the part of the public and helmet laws could well end up making them nonviable. But I hope not. It would be great to see them become a part of everyday life in Sydney.