Are Melbourne Bikes taking off?

We’ve spent the last six months renovating and moving into our new home in inner Melbourne. I’ve been looking forward to returning to city life and riding a bike to work.

In fact, I’ve been planning to join the Melbourne Bike Share scheme. In London, I looked enviously at the thousands of people riding the Boris bikes. It had just opened up for casual use as I left London for Melbourne so I never got the chance to try it out.

I felt sad that Melbourne bike share has not been as successful so far. Most people think the reason for the low rental rates is because helmets are compulsory. I don’t think this could be the root cause. Most of the London users are regular commuters who can get helmets, rather than casual impulse riders.

More basic reasons are probably how safe our streets feel for cyclists and perhaps the limited coverage of the scheme (mainly Melbourne CBD), which is already well served by trams. Damjan, whose work is slightly outside the very centre of Melbourne, would have to ride my folding bike because there are no blue bike stands near his office.

I hope that the Melbourne bikes will slowly take off. Today I actually saw four Melbourne cycles in my 20 minute morning commute to work. This is a bit of a record for me. Admittedly, two of them were being ridden illegally — one without a helmet, the other on the footpath.

If I had a hand in introducing the bikes to Melbourne, I would have done two extra things to speed up the uptake of the bikes. I would have launched the scheme in late spring or summer — why on earth did they start of in the cold and wet of winter? The UK was a bit smart in introducing their indoor smoking ban in summer to minimise the shock of going outside to smoke.

I would have also given away access or paid lots of people to ride around and generate some interest and buzz. My guess is that if people see other people riding around and if using those bikes seemed normal, then more people would try it out. Instead, it became normal to see full racks of unused bikes, just like it has become normal (common wisdom) that ‘Myki sucks‘ (it’s actually a very useable system, which had well publicised teething problems).

I have registered for Ride to Work day. Next Wednesday I make my first epic 13 minute journey from home to work on a Melbourne bike. I have already scoped out the route. There is only one lane change that I’m worried about but I hope that a mass of cyclists on Wednesday will protect me.

3 comments

  1. Kaye says:

    Cat was in a low-speed accident at a traffic light where she wasn’t moving and the car had only just started driving – she had to use crutches for a month, and wasn’t fully recovered for another month or two. =(

    I love the concept, but I don’t trust drivers enough to cycle on our roads!

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