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21st September 2017

Keys to success for oBike in Melbourne

If you haven’t seen it in the news recently, you might have tripped over, walked around or even underneath one of these big yellow o-bikes in the inner-city streets of Melbourne.

The bikes are Melbourne’s newest sharing system with bright yellow bicycles popping up all over the streets, being parked in odd-spots, taking over bike racks, street corners and pushed over in the most awkward of public spaces.

The yellow bikes have raised a lot of questions for Melbourne City Council and are potentially facing extermination if management of bike parking and maintenance is not improved fast.

Given the current situation in Melbourne, we’ve taken a look at how these bike-sharing services are run in other countries along with updates that are rolling out in China to see what we could learn from new regulations that can potentially help oBike succeed here in Melbourne.

Keys to success for oBike:

Working with the local government:

  • oBike’s key to success is to work with local government and/or private companies to provide more publicly accessible parking for bicycles, meaning less oBikes being left in inappropriate or undesirable spaces, cluttering storefronts and footpaths. This will result in happier private bike riders and pedestrians.
  • Investigate the potential of having parking stations set up as actual docking stations for the bikes. Just like our car sharing schemes (Flexicar, GoGet, etc) the bike has to be returned to one of these stations for the user to stop paying fees, which would be trackable through the bike’s inbuilt GPS system. Though this may mean there are less spaces for the bikes to be parked, if there is a way to monitor where they are being parked, it could result in more users doing the right thing.

Putting the responsibility on the user:

  • Like China, if the state government can get on board and issue new guidelines requesting local councils to police the use of these bikes. We can enforce fines for parking outside of permitted areas, damage, theft or vandalism of the bike when caught.
  • oBike have an incentive program that is based on a points system, incentivising riders by awarding good behaviour and taking points away for bad behaviour. The uptake on reporting has been slow but if done correctly, bad behaviour can result in a very expensive bike ride (up to $199 for 30 minutes in an extreme case) 

Maintenance / saturation of the market:

  • Establish a re-distribution plan, where excess bikes have been placed, oBike should have a plan to collect and return the bikes to a less saturated biking suburb.

  • Following in Shanghai and Taiwan’s footsteps, oBike would be required to have a minimum of one maintenance person per 200 (or 100) bikes to manage the upkeep and parking of the bikes.

Done well, the bike sharing scheme can mean a great deal for Melbourne and has a number of benefits. In addition to reducing traffic congestion, encouraging bike-sharing would contribute to a much greener city, improve air quality and accelerate plans for new sustainable developments like the Nightingale Project and similar.

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