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Of Bikes and Men

By Siriol Dafydd on February 1, 2018 in News

A mountain of dumped share bikes in Xiamen, south-east China.

A famous poet once said: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” a sentiment epitomised by Sydney bike sharing. Like a hot dog eating contest, a venture like this seems like a fun idea but without proper caution will cause discomfort and (worst case scenario) leave a somewhat unpleasant mess.
Dockless bikes are a wonderful concept. Designed to be picked up and dropped off at the rider’s convenience, they reduce traffic and promote fitness. But since their recent appearance, hundreds of bikes have been unceremoniously dumped in some rather inconvenient places. Reports of bikes in trees, under water, and blocking roadways reinforces the sad reality that, as a collective, human beings are a bunch of unruly children not to be trusted with toys.
Many local residents are concerned by their unsightliness.
“I like the convenience of finding them wherever but hate that they can be found wherever!” Patrick from Maroubra told The Beast.
“They’ve changed the streetscape in a negative way – they’re an eyesore.”
Another concerned local, Susan Hancock, acknowledged their benefits, despite the mess they cause.
“They popped up overnight like a plague of mushrooms,” she said.
“In my experience, they serve a purpose for short distances and are definitely convenient, but they look very untidy.”
Colm Doran finds the share bikes “very cheap and easy to use – the hop on, hop off is a huge sell – but they definitely need some rules around parking.”
The authorities quickly cottoned on to this and the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) has recently issued guidelines for the bike companies.
“The group is generally supportive of bike share schemes for a range of reasons, including the public health benefits of active transport, and the alternative to car transport that they present,” a spokesperson for Randwick Council explained to The Beast.
“There are concerns with some aspects of the existing schemes, which could be improved.”
Some of the guidelines effective from December 22, 2017, (subject to a 3-month trial) are:
• Operators must inform customers about correct parking, safety checks, and responsible riding.
• All bicycles (including bells, helmets, etc.) must comply with Australian Standards.
• All bikes must be parked in an upright position and not placed where they could pose a hazard.
• Bikes must not interfere with pedestrian access.
• Bikes should be equipped with GPS tracking, and operators must monitor their location at least daily.
• Operators must be proactive in the redistribution of bikes, avoiding build-up.
• Unsafe bikes must be removed immediately.
• Bikes causing a hazard will be relocated within two hours.
Reddy Go have 2,600 bicycles across Sydney. Over 35,000 people have downloaded their app and 1,000 trips are completed daily.
“We employ 30 people running every day to check the condition of our bikes. If a bike has been left at a non popular area for a few days, our GPS would be able to track the location of the bicycle,” their spokesperson said.
“Reddy Go has been working closely together with the councils participating in the SSROC, as well as other bike sharing operators in Sydney. We believe that the guidelines are fair and we will keep cooperating with the officials.”
Scott Walker, Head of Strategy at Ofo, also expressed compliance.
“We’re determined to be the bike share platform to run in Australia the ‘right way’ with sufficient local resourcing to ensure that all bikes are maintained, redistributed appropriately, have a helmet, and are parked properly,” he told The Beast.
Mobike launched 500 bikes in the city last November. Their General Manager, Mina Nada, explained that, “While some Mobikes are turning up in the Eastern Suburbs, this is not an area where we have deployed bikes at this stage, and our operations teams redistribute bikes when they enter the area. The 500 bikes that we launched with in Sydney are single gear bikes and we’re conscious that the hilly terrain of the Eastern Suburbs makes the use of these bikes harder. We have three-speed Mobikes arriving in Australia soon, and we expect these will be an asset to the local area.”
So it looks like these bikes/regurgitated hot-dogs are here to stay. The new guidelines should help keep things tidy and the bike companies seem up for the challenge. Here’s hoping that unruly children (the general public) don’t ruin it!