Council eagerly seeks share bike replacement

By David Schout,

Without any form of share bikes throughout the CBD, the City of Melbourne has put the call out for new e-bike operators to fill the city’s cycling void.

The council is seeking expressions of interest for electric bike companies to undertake a one-year trial in the CBD, assuring locals things will be much different than the oBike disaster of 2018.

Currently, the only bikes residents, workers and visitors can ride throughout the city are their own, with no casual options since the state government’s blue bike initiative was scrapped in November.

Would-be cyclists have no option to get around the CBD except in cars or using the free tram zone.

And, after the council’s recent 10-year transport strategy encouraged people out of cars and onto bikes, the predicament is far from ideal.

As such, it is desperate to provide an environmentally-friendly option to get people onto two wheels.

Transport chair Nic Frances Gilley said electric share bikes, which contained a small motor and could travel up to 25km/h, were “part of the future.”

“This is a serious piece of transport to really enable the people of Melbourne to get around,” Cr Frances Gilley said.

“It’s very similar to a bike. It does mean, though, if I’m commuting and going up Collins St or some of the hills in town, I can go from one meeting to the other and not arrive all sweaty and hot. It makes cycling around the city much easier.”

He said that unlike oBikes – which were routinely strewn across footpaths, parks and more infamously thrown into the Yarra River – a requirement would be that new providers “geofence” their bikes to prevent illegal dumping.

This technology, which creates a virtual geographic boundary, would mean that users would be charged unless the bicycle was parked in the correct location.

This contrasts with oBikes, where it was incumbent on users to park their bicycle in the correct position, yet faced no repercussions should they have failed to do so.

“There’s a real difference between oBikes and e-bikes,” Cr Frances Gilley said, adding that they would be regularly collected for charging and “cost a lot.”

Ride-sharing giant Uber revealed in January that it had plans to launch their “Jump” e-bikes in several Australian cities, of which Melbourne is believed to be one.

Uber will be competing with a number of other providers to be permitted a trial period from the council.

The City of Melbourne was in discussions with neighbouring councils to widen the area in which users could ride the e-bikes.

Cr Frances Gilley hoped a viable provider could be brought forward to council in early 2020.

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