Waverley Council has impounded more than 60 abandoned, broken share bikes, after multiple complaints from its residents fed up by “dockless” cycles strewn across Sydney’s east, including in Bondi.
New app-based share bikes from operators such as Reddy Go, oBike, Ofo and Mobike don’t require docking stations, which has resulted in hundreds of them being ditched far from designated parking areas, often blocking footpaths, but also in more bizarre locations – from trees to the middle of roundabouts to the bottoms of ponds.
Late in February, fed up Waverley mayor John Wakefield threatened to impound the forgotten bicycles, unless the companies committed to clearing them up. Last night, after they failed to act, council-employed park rangers took to the streets tagging and collecting any bikes deemed unsuitable for use or unsafe. The companies can now collect them for a $70 fee, otherwise they'll be recycled.
"I think it's been clear the operators are not cleaning up their act," Wakefield said in an official media release, in which he called on the state government to further regulate bike-sharing schemes. "We've given them lots of warning and several months to get their operations up to a level of excellence. We're not happy [and] residents are not happy with what they're doing."
Last year, three Melbourne councils introduced strict rules for the city’s 1250 share bikes, after several models were dredged out of the Yarra River. In late February this year Gobee, France's first dockless bike-sharing company, was forced to shut down after 60 per cent of its fleet was stolen or damaged.
Australia’s first share-bike scheme launched in Melbourne in 2010, and share bikes have since proved a popular and sustainable mode of transport there and in other cities around the country, especially for tourists. Though early iterations were not without teething problems (the issue of helmets proved especially contentious for Melburnians), it’s the dockless nature of the new schemes, which originated in congested Asian cities, causing particular headaches for councils and residents.
Judy Sampson, a member of a Waverley community group, believes a drastic overhaul is need. “The unique problem that bike sharing faces in a city like Sydney, as opposed to condensed cities like Japan or Singapore, is that we would need thousands to be able to have one on every street corner,” she told Broadsheet via email. “If you have to walk a few kilometres to get to the bike then you’re probably just going to dump it in a random spot that no one will pick up.”
An Ofo spokesperson defended the company, which she told Broadsheet “maintains, at all times, a trained team and operations crew who are regularly checking the areas in which we have bikes.” She said Ofo is “endeavouring to do better” and appreciated indiscriminately parked or broken bikes being reported via its app or Facebook page.
Wakefield agreed it’s in everyone’s interests to improve transport options in Waverley, but bike companies need to improve quickly to ensure their bikes “don’t become a problem for residents, businesses, pedestrians and other road users.”
“We have undertaken this clean-up in order to get this scheme to work,” he said.
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