Stationless Bike Sharing in Sydney

Since I have moved to Sydney, which is to say, very recently, Sydney has seen the emergence of stationless bike sharing. I saw this in China in May, and now it is here. Technology deploys very quickly these days. I signed up for the first entrant, Reddy Go quickly, and gave them a deposit, but didn’t get around to trying to use it til last week. I also registered for oBike this weekend, after getting a 10 free rider voucher (Voucher Code SHARE) for signing up.

Not Reddy, No Go.

A broken Reddy-Go
A broken Reddy-Go

I said “trying to use it” as I was not successful. My first attempt was during the week. I had a breakfast appointment on Kensington Street and was in Chippendale, a nice residential area. It seemed like this would be a good opportunity to use the service without running into too much vehicle traffic, which makes long distance cycling very dangerous. Now biking in Sydney (NSW) is officially discouraged through helmet laws and lack of facilities (and shrinking at that) and heavy fines, though it is officially encouraged by words on plans. I wouldn’t let my kids ride in traffic, as the car drivers are more aggressive than in the US. But Chippendale is mostly traffic calmed.

I pulled out the app, scanned the bar code, and was told via the app, that sorry, this bike cannot be used. I don’t know why. I retried it a couple of times and walked to my destination.

Yesterday, my oldest son saw a Reddy Go, in Alexandria Park,  and tried to climb it and ride, but it was locked. Fortunately I had the app. I tried again just to see if it worked, since the kids had been bikeless for a few months.  It would not unlock. I subsequently noticed it was vandalized, and the spokes on the back wheel were bent out of shape (not accidentally). I reported this via the app.

O, a Bike.

A dirty OBike
A dirty oBike

Well, I signed up for oBike as well, having obtained a coupon card. In Alexandria Park, I saw an oBike, maybe I will try that. It was filthy, as if someone had taken it dirt-bike riding. Unlikely. I saw another oBike. Someone had piled dirt (I hope it was dirt) on the seat. Pass. Finally I saw a clean oBike, tried to unlock that. It actually worked. oReka.

My oldest son put on the helmet (I hope no lice) (probably violating terms of service), and rode around the park. Then my younger son tried it, but his legs were too short. I tried it. I adjusted the seat (which was easy, as these are fairly new bikes, not rusted out yet), put on the helmet, and rode. It rode fine, a bit heavy, with no obvious gears (but a bell, where the gears should be), so it tired my legs more than it should have. After a few minutes I ended the ride. Now how to lock it. I eventually discovered this is a physical mechanism. I put the helmet back somewhere (this is not at all clear where it should go). And left it. I hope it was properly checked out. I have not received a nasty-gram, so I assume I am fine.


A pile of dirt on an OBike Seat
A pile of dirt on an oBike Seat

So this vandalism thing is a problem. In Minnesota, the bike shares were all station-based, so everything was tidy, and it seemed vandalism was a minimum. Perhaps it is something in the Australian (or Sydney) character that leads to the additional vandalism compared with Minnesota? Perhaps it is just because they are randomly placed and not station-based.  There have been news stories lately about bikes in the rivers. Perhaps Sydney-siders or Australians just dislike bikes, the way they dislike immigration by boat. Despite the massive number of shared bikes in China, it didn’t seem to be much of an issue there. Perhaps because of higher utilization, or it is more of a a biking culture, or perhaps because the communist Chinese are more respectful of property than capitalist Australia?

Next Steps

Finally, a successful ride
Finally, a successful ride

The next steps are probably mostly steps rather than rides. I may ask for a refund from Reddy Go, still debating whether to give them another chance. I will test oBike a few more times, but the protected bike lane network is Sydney is not terribly useful to me. (The walk to work wouldn’t be a bad ride, iffy in a few places, mostly around Redfern where there are many pedestrians, but it’s not a bad walk either).

8 thoughts on “Stationless Bike Sharing in Sydney

  1. Andrew Andrusko

    The cycling industry has been discussing this trend in some detail as of late, it appears that dockless companies in China are rapidly approaching a significant change via regulation. It would seem that Dr. Levinson’s points about malevolent misuse have also impacted the Chinese systems as well. The issue we face with dockless systems are similar to that of land uses: Will bicycle parking become a nuisance? Will intentional misuse become a nuisance that leads to regulation?

  2. Alex SchieferdeckerAlex Schieferdecker

    I hadn’t kept up with trends in bike sharing, and so it really surprised me that people started talking about dockless bike share as being inevitable. I understand some of its appeals to a provider in terms of cost, but I guess I’m not fully clear on how dockless systems solve the re-balancing issue, how they solve the parking issue, and how they deal with vandalism.

    Also as a potential user, I guess I find the convenience of simply walking to a known dock location preferable to hunting around for a bike in the wild or on the web. Perhaps I’m in the minority on that.

    Either way, it will be interesting to see how this evolves across the US. I know Nice Ride has been talking a lot about it.

  3. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Portland’s system is kind of a dockless but docking encouraged system. You pay extra if you leave your bike somewhere other than a dock so most are returned to a dock where they can be easily found.

    Those not left at a dock proved quite difficult or impossible to find.

    The bikes were all in good shape when I was there and in a conversation with a friend the other day he said that they are still in quite good shape.

  4. Monte Castleman

    I’d have the same thought about putting on a helmet left on a sharing bike- did the person before me have lice? Interesting that in Brisbane they did a study on what deterred bike sharing usage and found not having a helmet (36%) or not wanting to wear one (25%) ranked above the weather, cost or safety. In Seattle you could buy a sterilized one from a vending machine at a docking station, but it was still enough of a deterrent (along with the hilly terrain) to end their Pronto bike sharing program.

    My own study on helmet use in the Twin Cities found a rate over 70% in certain locations, but only 10% of Nice Ride users.

  5. GlowBoy

    Sorry to hear dockless isn’t going well in Sydney. I’m hearing much better reports from Seattle, where a new dockless system appears to be having quite a bit of success in the wake of Pronto’s collapse.

    This despite Seattle (like Sydney) having a mandatory helmet law, and quite a bit of driver hostility towards cyclists (though perhaps not as much as Sydney, which I understand to be one of the most cycling-hostile cities in the world).

  6. Bill Dooley

    Nice Rice will start to transition to dockless in 2018. Hear more from the two finalists who are in competition take over the Nice Ride system on November 6 here:

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