The Future of Transportation – Australia’s First Dockless Bicycle Sharing System

Singapore-based company oBike has recently introduced the first dockless smart bike share system in Australia. Standing for Open, Be Yourself, Intelligent, Keen and Energetic, oBike’s mission is to “Change the short distance transportation through technology, enhance the quality of life through Art, make people easier to get around and make the world better to live in!”

At a rate of $A1.99 for every thirty minutes the oBike’s are being promoted as being faster than walking from a public transportation stop to your home or office, cheaper than a bus, train, tram or taxi, less time-consuming that waiting for public transport as well as healthy and environmentally friendly. Users gain access to the oBike network by using an app on their smartphones which is connected to their bank account. At the end of a user’s trip all that he/she has to do is to park the bike in a safe area, manually lock it and then end the trip on their app.

The Queensland Government Department of Transport and Main Roads has outlined some of the major environmental, economic, social and transport benefits associated with cycling. Related to improved health, it says “Regular exercise, such as cycling and walking is important” and adds that health professionals recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. “Riding to work, school, [university] or college, or taking your bike on short neighbourhood trips is a convenient and practical way to incorporate regular exercise into your busy day.” In this regard, the spread of oBikes around Australian cities is making it easier for people to make regular short-term trips but not have to own their own bike and worry about maintenance costs and security issues.

Increased cycling is good for the environment because it is a pollution-free form of transport. The alternative to cycling or walking, which is also pollution-free, is to use a car or public transport. According to the Queensland Government, “Cycling 10km each way to work would save 1500 kg of greenhouse gas emissions each year. Also, as traffic delays and interruptions to traffic flow in Australia’s six major cities account for around 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, cycling during peak hours would contribute to further emissions reductions by reducing congestion and improving traffic flow.”

At present, transport is the second-largest household expenditure item after food for Australian households. Cycling more regularly, even if it is on a rental bike, can reduce a family’s need to use their car or to purchase a second car. Says the Queensland Government, “Cycling 10km to work each day would save about A$1700 per year in transport costs (including all running costs and depreciation). Also, bicycle parking is usually free, easily accessible and more convenient than car parking.”

Socially, cycling offers many benefits. According to the Queensland Government, it “Enables people to interact socially and feel more at home in their local community. More people cycling and walking provides additional opportunity for social interaction on the streets and this enhances a sense of community.” Worldwide, bike riding is a more socially accessible activity for the majority of the world’s population than is owning and using a car. Around 80% of the world’s population can afford a bike while only 10% can afford a car.

Bikes are beneficial to town and city transport systems because they do less damage to road surfaces than cars do. Having more bikes on the road can result in less congestion and the costs associated with it. The Queensland Government states that “The estimated costs of congestion are A$5 billion per year” while “Maintaining and improving the transport network costs the Australian government an average of A$27 million every working day.” If the oBike networks set up around Australia can help reduce these costs it makes money available to be spent in other important government initiatives and programs.

Australian newspaper, The Age, claims that although oBike “Boasts more than 100,000 daily trips in Singapore” questions are still being asked as to whether it can be successful in Australia. Although it will take time for the attitudes and mind-sets of many Australians to change for them to fully embrace cycling and public bike-sharing systems there are already promising signs. One of these promising signs is the fact that local councillors and state governments are already offering their support and are backing the establishment of bike-sharing networks financially.

While they might be early adopters of dockless bike-sharing systems, Australian cities are well behind many other cities who have long had public bike-rental networks, particularly in Europe. In addition, many of these, are also operated using innovative mobile phone apps connected to the user’s bank account. Indeed, in 2009 the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF) claimed that “Future cities are cycling cities!” adding that “For far too long the design of urban traffic systems focused predominately on car-users and has been “unfriendly” to cyclists.” Considering this it is likely that cycling and accommodating for an increased number of bike users will be important elements of any transport and town planning designs and upgrades in towns and cities across the world.

 

Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on September 27, 2017.

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