Cities throughout the world have established bike sharing schemes and our city is no exception, but Adelaide being Adelaide, anything concerning bikes comes with bumps in the road.
Folks wishing to get around the city on a bike that they pick up and leave behind now have a smorgasbord of two-wheeled options: Adelaide Free Bikes, ofo, Obikes, Spinway or you can hire from local cycling stores such as Treadly Bike Shop on Ebenezer Place.
It’s generally accepted that bike-sharing schemes get more bikes on the road and reduce the number of cars and pollution in the city. They can also be a more affordable option than public transport, with hire periods costing around a dollar on average — or, as in the case of Adelaide Free Bikes, having no cost to the rider at all.
Bike sharers have been able to use new options in Adelaide recently, with the introduction of ofo and oBikes. These are both ‘dockless’ bike companies, which originated in China and Singapore respectively, and operate in many other cities internationally. But bike-share schemes in Adelaide date back to 2005, as the City of Adelaide began Adelaide Free Bikes 13 years ago. To use a free council bike, one can front up to Bike SA (at 53 Carrington Street, with photo ID) any day of the week between 8am and 6pm. You sign the hire form and then go off on your merry two-wheeled way until it’s time to bring the bike back to headquarters by 6pm. The council scheme is responsible for more than 20,000 bike hires a year.
Emily Jones, who works in the CBD, recently tried Adelaide Free Bikes. She rode to West Beach from the Free Bikes station at Torrens Weir, and thinks a particular strength of bike-sharing in Adelaide is that it “encourages people to get out and about and see Adelaide beyond the CBD”.
To be sure, it’s generally accepted that bike-sharing schemes get more bikes on the road and reduce the number of cars and amount of pollution in the city. They can also be an even more affordable option than public transport, with hire periods costing around one dollar each on average — or, as in the case of Adelaide Free Bikes, having no cost to the rider at all.
To use an ofo bike, one downloads the ofo app that leads you to an available bike in your area. You claim it by scanning a QR code sent to you through the app. When you’re done, you lock it and leave it where you are — i.e., you don’t have to take it back to a particular station. Using an ofo bike will cost you a dollar per half-hour, capped at a maximum of $5 for a single trip. OBike operates in a similar way.
Bicycle user Steve McClure tells The Adelaide Review that he “loved the ease of use and convenience” of ofo, which had a successful trial period and therefore worked with the City of Adelaide to increase the number of bikes, particularly for the higher footfall during Adelaide Fringe.
Still, the introduction of dockless bikes alongside Adelaide Free Bikes has been the subject of some controversy in our city. At the time of ofo and oBike’s introduction, some Adelaide city councillors expressed their concern that Adelaide faces the problem of bikes being thrown in the river, left on people’s front yards, or found up a tree (all of which have happened in other cities with dockless bike sharing schemes, including Melbourne). Lord Mayor Martin Haese told ABC Radio Adelaide in October that “we want to see that this is not going to end up in a bit of a disaster”.
ofo’s Adelaide city manager Alexander Hender tells The Adelaide Review that ofo is “committed to working with government and the community to build a sustainable bike share model in Australia”. This includes a number of measures that address concerns about disposability including “a credit rating system to reward good users”, the provision of “quality bikes rigorously tested to Australian conditions”. The bikes are also installed with GPS tracking, and ofo has “a well-resourced operations team on the ground to ensure bikes are checked twice daily and re-allocated where required”.
Apart from being a no-cost option, Bicycle SA CEO Christian Haag notes that the docked bikes of Adelaide Free Bikes have other advantages:
“A benefit of Adelaide Free Bikes is that your bike is still there if you need to alight — say if you’re riding to a lecture at uni, with a Free Bike your same bike will still be there for your next journey after your lecture.
“We also have the capacity to provide for group hires — like families”, he says.
ofo’s Alexander Hender believes that “different operators will have different strengths” as bike-sharing grows in Adelaide and that there is room for all “to make bike sharing a convenient and sustainable part of the transport mix in Australia”.