Is Melbourne Bicycle Share getting better?

Now that Le Tour has started, it’s timely to think about cycling.

And yes, Melbourne Bike Share is getting better (sort of). RACV announced back on 21 June that Melbourne is getting more blue Bixis “with 40 bike stations and 500 bikes commencing roll out this week”.

Melbourne: 50 stations and 600 bikes (+ helmet)

That clearly reads as additional to the existing ten stations and 100 bikes, and so should give us the full 50 bike stations and 600 bikes that were originally announced.

The new stations are located at New Quay, Bourke Street, Merchant St, Yarra’s Edge, along Elizabeth Street, the Rialto Tower, Southern Cross and Parliament Stations, Lygon Street and the Eye and Ear Hospital. Unfortunately the RACV doesn’t provide a time frame for the roll out but the Melbourne Bike Share map indicates that more than 30 stations are now up and running.

That’s good news, but there’s an alarming piece of information in the press release – the 100 bikes that launched the scheme were rented only 700 times (by 400 renters) in the initial three weeks between 1 June and 21 June.

We know that trips are short because the structure of the tariff punishes long duration rentals mercilessly. So if we assume an average trip duration of 45 minutes, that means each bike was rented, on average, for an hour and three quarters per week.

It seems few Melburnians and few tourists are bothering to give the Bixis a trial. This is not surprising given the way the scheme was hobbled on launch by compulsory helmets, cold and wet weather, a tariff that discouraged tourists and a mere 10 stations set out along the public transport-rich Swanston-Elizabeth St spine.

I felt from the outset that the scheme was misconceived but hopefully the new bikes and more amenable Spring weather will give the scheme a fillip. But consider that Montreal has 5,000 Bixis, 400 stations and no competing trams! Melbourne Bike Share is starting to head towards white elephant status I fear – the time for a rethink could be getting closer.

Montreal: 400 stations and 5,000 bikes (3,000 at launch) - and no helmet

8 Comments on “Is Melbourne Bicycle Share getting better?”

  1. Michael says:

    I think although this scheme is having trouble gaining popularity, I really do hope it can survive somehow and make the bcd more pleasant. The fact is that catering for cars make for an ugly, dirty and unhealthy city. The biggest barriers to this thing working IMHO are the helmet requirement (I support helmets in general but not for this scheme) and the lack of good cycling infrastructure. I had to make a 15 minute bike trip across to North Carlton the other day and took my own bike. The journey would have taken considerably longer on public transport because it wasn’t that direct so biking it made sense. The real elephant in the room though is the crapness of all the disconnected bike lanes and traffic signals that don’t acknowledge bikes. Exactly how do the morons who create traffic infrastructure expect bikes to navigate some of this crap without breaking the law? the answer is simple and depressing – they don’t. They don’t even consider it because they aren’t cyclists and they only provide cycling infrastructure as an exercise in tokenism and expediency. Time to get rid of vicRoads and start again.

  2. Michael says:

    Correction – I meant “CBD” not bcd.

  3. mike rubbo says:

    Alan, I think you saw my movie made in Sept last year, predicting that the Melb bike share scheme can’t work.

    It was; called Bike share and helmets don’t mix?

    I’m coming down to Melb on sat. 24 to hear Mikael Colville-Andersen speak at the the design conference on our bike future. I’m sure you know his blog,, the best utility bike blog in the world.

    Several of us are planning to test the helmet laws in relation to bike share. Our argument for riding without helmets will be necessity. Namely, the necessity of drawing attention to how the helmet law is crippling a scheme which is thriving around the world, and which we desperately need to work in Australia.

    Bike share is vital because it’s the proven way to bring large numbers of people who now don’t ride, to the point of trying and then enjoying city riding.

    Montreal, fir example, has been transformed. London soon will be. Paris and is great Velibs, is well known.

    None of thee schemes is crippled as is Melb. Bike share by denying adults the right to choose.
    whether to helmet or not.
    The nanny state has to make an exemption for these bikes if they are to survive and thrive
    mike Rubbo.

    • Alan Davies says:

      Sorry Mike, but I reckon you’ve got Buckley’s chance of convincing the Government to exempt Melbourne Bike Share from the mandatory helmet requirement.

      There’s simply no political advantage in providing an exemption and lots of political risk – most parents think helmets are a good thing.

      It will be much easier politically to subsidise the scheme a few million per annum in perpetuity (or just let it die) than take the political risk of removing the helmet requirement.

      The only possible glimmer of light, as I’ve argued before, would be to re-position the scheme as a tourist facility with an exemption for bona fide international tourists.

      It is conceivable (although unlikely) the Government might agree to this because it avoids setting a precedent for Victorians.

      • Mike Rubbo says:

        Alan, I think letting MBS die will be hard after all the build up its had. Secondly, as more and bike share schemes become part of the fabric of life in cities like London and Paris, places which Aussies visit a lot, our failure to make it work here, will be more and more glaring.

        Our utility cycling will also slip further and further behind Europe and Asia because these schemes are proving so important in raising bike usage levels.

        How long can a country keep on doing badly things which are key to lower greenhouse gasses and thus a smaller carbon footprint?

      • itsumishi says:

        I unfortunately agree with your assessment there. Unfortunate because there are more and more experts condemning mandatory helmet laws as failed health policy.

        The number of injuries they prevent simply do not match the decrease in general health associated with regular riding.

        Just as a bike hire has been proven to greatly increase mode share on both on public bikes and privately owned bikes in other cities that implemented similar systems successfully, helmets have lowered the number of riders on our roads for decades. Which in turn leaves the Government the excuse that there isn’t much demand for bicycle infrastructure! Which of course would have a far greater safety benefit than helmets in the first place. Argh! Catch 22 all round.

  4. mike rubbo says:

    I forgot to mention, my email is now

  5. […] leave a comment » No, I don’t agree with Alan Todd of Kyneton that Melbourne Bicycle Share is a winner and I never have (see my previous posts here, here and here). […]

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