Posted by: Mike Rubbo | October 25, 2009

Bike Share, will we ever get it here?

NOW STARTS THE HARD PART.

It’s just been announced that a consortium made of the RACV, along with the  US company, ALTA,  has just won the contract to bring bike share to Australia for the first time.

Brisbane has recently signed a similar contract, that one with the French company,  J. C. Decaux.  Which city is up and running first, if either, will be a race to watch.

The winning RACV  bid plans to  put 600 public bikes into  the Melbourne inner city for easy public access on the swipe of a card or insertion of a membership tag.

The bikes  for Melbourne will be the BIXI model which has just had its  first very successful North American season.  5000 of  the sturdy sit-up BIXI bikes have been  on the streets of Montreal since the northern spring,  dispensed from numerous solar powered docking stations around the city.

For Melbourne though, now starts the hard part. I found out  from the winning company,   Alta,  presenting at the recent Bike Futures conference in Melbourne, that there’s a huge stumbling blog in the way.

Whilst there are now hundreds of bikes shares schemes  around the world, either up and running or in the planning stages,  there has never been one successfully set up in a country with compulsory helmet laws such as ours.

How to dispense helmets with these bikes, is a long way from being solved,   as my interviewees, candidly admit. For legal and health  reasons, helmets can’t be automatically dispensed along with the bikes.

Yet if they are not, the flexibility  which it the key to bike share success, is gone

You can see my exclusive investigation in the film below.

In my report, I call the bikes we may get, Mixis.  The Montreal name, Bixi, was decided through a public competition. It’s  a running together of the french word for bicycle and taxi.

Back to the helmet problem. A friend sent me this clip about a new folding helmet. It might be part of the solution, at least for the local bike share clientele.

By the way,  I do very much  like the elegance of slow riding that Mixis would bring to our cities.  

The slow bike movement started by Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize.com, is a great idea.

I visited David Hembrow’s excellent blog,  (The View From the Cycle path. Link on the side)  to find this wonderful portrait of the  biking past, cycling  in Holland in the 50’s,  put together by Mark Wagenbuur.

Mark’s the one who also did another clip I borrowed, one which showed how up-straight people ride in Holland, and, as is clear from this video,  they did back then as well.

This is a film to just bathe in,  to  bask in the glide,  the beauty of bicycle movement, the serenity of such a life , much of which has been lost today,  outside of Holland.

I say, outside Holland,  because as David points out,  little has changed in the way people  get around there, even today. Enjoy it.




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Responses

  1. Well done on another great video.

    It really shows what a bike share scheme can do to increase bicycle usage and improve people’s lives.

    I can’t see it working with this stupid helmet law either.

    The helmet law was a HUGE mistake. And I’m being polite. It has negligible benefits and imposes huge costs of the community, in terms of additional traffic jams, and costly medical bills arising from poor health issues like obesity. Why can’t the govt admit they made a mistake and repeal the law? Because there isn’t political pressure to do so. They hope to get away with failure unnoticed.

    Let’s increase the political pressure to get rid of the helmet law. It’s not that hard to show that a policy with with negligible benefits at best imposing huge costs to the taxpayers should be scrapped. I don’t accept the statement that it is “out of the question” to get rid of it.

  2. [...] Vélib showed the world what a bike-share network can accomplish, but the appeal of public bicycle systems has never been limited to Paris or France. In the past few years, cities in China, Brazil, and the United States have launched bike-shares of various size. London is looking at a 6,000 bike system, and Dublin recently launched a network with about 500 bikes. Boston may be on the verge of rolling out the first truly robust American bike-share network. Even in Australia, where it's illegal for anyone to ride without a helmet, bike-share is on the way. [...]

  3. [...] Velib showed the world what a bike-share network can accomplish, but the appeal of public bicycle systems has never been limited to Paris or France. In the past few years, cities in China, Brazil, and the United States have launched bike-shares of various size. London is looking at a 10,000 bike system, and Dublin recently launched a network with about 500 bikes. Boston may be on the verge of rolling out the first truly robust American bike-share network. Even in Australia, where it's illegal for anyone to ride without a helmet, bike-share is on the way. [...]

  4. I wonder, when companies like JC Deceaux start getting involved in the Australian bike hire market, how prepared they will be to use their considerable financial and political clout to lobby the government to change the law?

    In the interim, I hope that a way can be found to make this happen – fingers crossed!

    We’re getting the Bixi here in London next summer which will be very exciting, 6000 of them in fact – but of course, no compulsory helmet law here… I think it does make a big difference and it’s a good thing that people like you Mike are bringing up the helmet issue in advance – if the scheme fails the car lobby will kick over the embers with glee and it will be a big set-back for cycling in Australian cities.

    Mark

    • You are getting 6000 Bixis, Mark. We’ve been promised a mere 600. But even if we get that small number in melbourne, , it will be a huge breakthrough.

      Will the Govt address the helmet challenge to make Bike share become more than a token activity? They wont want to. But with the clamor of new stake holders. City hall. etc. not wanting to see the streets of our tourist friendly cities, devoid of bikes, there may be pressure brought to bear.

      I’m sure you looked at my movie on this blog, Biking up the Wrong Tree.

      That records the day Bruce and I, riding around Sydney’s beauty spots, met only 6 other cyclists in as many hours. That was the day it hit me that our helmet laws might be keeping the thousands of tourists in the city that day with us, off rental bikes.

      So city hall, the tourist boards, the merchants associations, will all be clamoring. “Why do we have to miss out on the bike bonanza?”
      To them, Govts. might listen.

      Mike

  5. I am interested to see what will happen if the bike share fails as a result of judicial inflexibility. Could Australia’s gov’t actually take a look at its self and review its poorly conceived laws and do something about them in the face of a failure that has very specific and undeniable roots? (I sound pessimistic, but I really think this may be to way to start a reversal of this silliness).

    • Adrienne, the situation is quite dramatic, I think. A moment of truth, perhaps. We’ve been gliding along, our bike culture warped towards racing, and racers don’t mind wearing helmets.

      We’ve never had to face ho many people helmets might be keeping off bikes, esp. women. Only about 15% of cyclists here are women.

      That’s related not only to hair and helmets but to the macho bike culture, the state of war on our roads which sees a Lycra clad road warrior mount a bus the other day in Sydney, and attack the driver. The cyclist was completely in the wrong, riding in the bus lane.

      We desperately need a gentler, more utility based bike culture, and bike share would be a way to get it. We’ll see.

  6. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/31/world/europe/31bikes.html?_r=1

    Just an update on the Velib bike-share

  7. Hi Mike….How cool is that video! :)

  8. Bravo, well done, excellent ending on the helmet detail, love that you’re (and Ms. Cohen are) looking at ways at just getting people on bikes, regardless of the if’s and’s or but’s.

    You’re saving the world with your talent and compassion, Mike, Good on yer! (and a great choice on music, again.)

    The rental cost also crossed my mind, as a possible deterrent. However, once the demand is sufficient, I expect market competition may come in to play to ensure that prices remain reasonable.

    Regardless, even today, I wouldn’t hesitate to rent a bike in a city that I was visiting, not in a heartbeat. For me, that opportunity would present added value for my trip, not just a meaningless option.

    • Thank’s Robert. i worked hard on that one. I wonder how she (Ms. Cohen ) feels about our exchange. I sent the URL to her of course. and had had correspondence with her after the filming and before posting the story, but since then, silence. Perhaps her company feels she was too candid. But on the other hand, I would think it would help the Bixi related bid to be squarely facing the problems.

      Since posting, I’ve been sent an intriguing video about a folding helmet which I’m going to post soon. It could be the answer for regular users in the city with the scheme, and was probably designed with that in mind.Mike

  9. Beguiling work as always Mike! I think it will be v interesting to see how this issue pans out with the introduction of a bike hire scheme in a helmet-law country. Whilst I don’t like it, I think your proposal of a tiered system for bike use may be the only way forward if, as the gentleman in your video says, ‘the idea of rescinding the law is not even on the table in the Government’ – maybe a middle ground is the only way forwards.

    As for the idea of buying a helmet from a 7/11 – this just isn’t going to work – the key to bike hire schemes like Bixi and Velibe working is that the bikes need to be in constant circulation and use, otherwise, well, they just SIT there!

    • Thanks of the support, Mark. We;ll see if anyone picks it up. Mike

  10. Another top video… nice balanced presentation!

    • Rob, I finally got round to linking to your blog after enjoying the story about rotating photos. Are you saying that it’s too complicated to aspire to that myself, or will Allan Baynard help?

      I chose my banner photo with Ecovelo in mind but had no idea how to achieve that and settled for the still which was taken with an old bike on Avoca Beach, early one evening, though in my mind, it’s a sunrise, not a sunset.

      Cheers, Mike


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