By Christmas, about 6000 red bikes tracked by GPS will be scattered throughout Sydney.
That’s the ambitious target for Sydney’s first dockless bike-sharing service, Reddy Go, which launched in the central business district last week with 160 bikes for hire at $1.99 for half an hour.
Backed by a large Chinese app developer, Reddy Go’s arrival is already raising concerns that its bikes will clog footpaths and make it harder for commuter cyclists to find spots to lock up their bicycles.
But the start-up’s founder, Donald Tang, said it was employing staff to remove its bikes placed in the wrong spots such as driveways, or locations such as outside train stations where too many were left.
“We wouldn’t put too many bikes in one spot, otherwise it will block footpaths and driveways. That’s not good,” he said.
“The whole purpose of this concept is to make people’s lives easier – not to make it harder.”
Mr Tang said the service would focus on densely populated parts of Sydney such as Chatswood, Macquarie Park, Burwood, Waterloo and Zetland over the next six months.
Reddy Go was beaten in the race to become the first dockless cycle-sharing service to launch in Australia by Singapore’s oBike , which began in Melbourne in May.
The latest start-ups are different to an earlier generation of bike-sharing schemes in that they do not need users to return them to designated docking stations.
Brisbane’s CityCycle has been the poster child for a bike-hire scheme that failed to take off, costing the city’s ratepayers millions of dollars since its introduction in 2010.
One of the reasons given for its poor take-up has been that helmets were hard to find.
To comply with cycling laws, Reddy Go will provide helmets for users for each of its bikes. The penalty for riding without a helmet more than quadrupled last year from $71 to $319, making NSW one of the toughest jurisdictions in the world for cyclists who fall foul of the laws. The fine has since increased further to $330.
Mr Tang, a University of Technology graduate, said the fact that the bikes did not need to be returned to a docking station would make it more attractive for Sydneysiders and tourists alike.
“It’s free-standing – no station is required, which means more convenience,” he said.
Unlocked and locked with a smartphone app, the light-weight bicycles each have rear and front lights powered by a solar panel.
One of Reddy Go’s backers is Beijing smart-phone app developer Elex-Tech, which built the software central to the operation of the bike-sharing service.
While supportive of bike sharing, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she had written to Premier Gladys Berejiklian to ask the government for “appropriate regulation, especially around where and how bicycles will be parked and managed”.
“In other cities, the biggest public domain impacts have been around train stations and bus stops where bikes can build up in great numbers,” she said.
“As bike-share operators are seeking to roll out Sydney-wide rather than just in the City of Sydney local area, they need to work closely with the NSW government. The City has no jurisdiction to allow or disallow bike share operators.”
However, councils do have power under the Local Government Act to remove “public nuisances”.
Transport for NSW said it would work with the City of Sydney and Reddy Go to monitor the proposed trial and “actively address issues that may arise”.
BIKESydney president David Borella said be believed the bike-sharing scheme would succeed, and appeal in particular to tourists.
“It really is door-to-door travel. I think this will be a success because there is such a push for this,” he said.
“It will be better [than Brisbane’s CityCycle] because it is dockless and it is business driving this.”
However, he said it was likely to experience growing pains over the coming months as people raised concerns about bikes clogging narrow footpaths and tourists finding themselves funnelled onto busy streets because of the city’s incomplete cycle-path network.
By Matt O’Sullivan
Syndey Morning Herald