Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bike Hire in Adelaide

After the phenomenal success of the Melbourne Bike Share scheme (not), a recent article in the Messenger Press suggested that Adelaide should give it a go. Currently, of the 30,000 bike hires per year, only 30% are local people. but we are told "cycling supporters want to see a share-style program catering more to city workers."

Bicycle Institute of South Australia chair Jeremy Miller said in Adelaide the scheme required users to return the bike to where they hired it, meaning it did not encourage “everyday use” for locals going from A to B.

That is of course true.

Everyone's favourite bike cap collector, Angus Kingston, naturally supports more bikes in the city but understandably does not think higher prices are a good idea. He said:

One good thing would be if city bikes could be dropped off anywhere so you could grab it at Rundle St and drop it off on South Tce.

Absolutely right.

I have looked and looked and from what I can see you can pick up hire bikes from Adelaide City Council on Pirie Street or from the zoo. To encourage "everyday use", you need a couple of things. The two most obvious are cheapness and ease of use. If you really want people to hop on a bike to, for example, go to a meeting or lunch on the other side of the CBD, you need hire stations all over the place and the bikes must be cheap. People literally have to be able to hop on and go. Unless you are a member, the Melbourne scheme does not allow that.

Bike SA Chief, Christian Haag, has a slightly different view. He says:

City employers should encourage workers to ride to the office and between appointments in town by providing showers, lockers and bike storage.

Hmm. Not sure about that. Having to shower to go to an appointment and then mess around with bike storage? I don't think that will work.

What you need is a system of robust bikes set up like shopping trolleys with their $2 deposit. Put in your coin, ride the bike, return it and get your coin back. That is how the Copenhagen scheme works. This is the Helsinki version which is similar to the Danish version:

(Original here)

They do not look like any other bike and so stealing them is fairly pointless. If you ride them outside of the hire zone, the police will stop you and issue a hefty fine. Here's a short blog post about them. In Copernhagen, they are free. All you need is the deposit.

If you want office workers and locals to use hire bikes, it must not be any hassle at all. If it is, it will fail.

The other thing you need to make a hire scheme work is safety. Setting up a system of shiny new hire bikes is all very well but it will go nowhere if users have to ride them on busy, dangerous and unpleasant roads. That would be the case with any hire system introduced today. It is also the problem in Melbourne. Fix that first and your bike hire scheme will flourish (come to think of it, so will cycling generally). If people know they can pick up a bike for a $2 deposit and ride a few blocks in safety before giving it back, they will use it.

Watch it happen.


  1. Thanks! I reckon next time I get called up for comments on these things I should pass your name on. There is an East Torrens Messenger article coming out this week touching on Gage St St Morris and bike parking (lack of) in Norwood.

    Of course none of use wanted to talk about the elephant in the room issue of helmets.

  2. The coin-op schemes are more prone to vandalism and theft than the Bixi or Velob type schemes.

    I would like the scheme integrated into the public transport network, ie train and tram stops, and be everywhere from Glenelg to Norwood and Semaphore, including the CBD, North Adelaide, Unley, Henley Beach Road, the Airport and allow for lots of slow riding along the Torrens. Pirie Street to the Zoo is way too limited in scope.

  3. Thanks for these comments. I have been away so missed them the first time round. I agree about integrating the bike scheme into public transport. If they were at local shopping centres and railway stations, it could be one way of increasing the catchment area of stations.