Bike share has schemes have exploded in popularity across the world in recent years as cities look to improve transport options. With the government’s Urban Cycleway Programme has finally started to see some real investment be put into cycling infrastructure, it’s timely to ask if we should be implementing bikeshare here.
On Friday, Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced that the NZTA would be working with Auckland Transport and the Christchurch City Council respectively to investigate bikeshare schemes for each city.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges says current investigations into cycle share schemes in both Auckland and Christchurch shows the increasingly significant contribution cycling is now making to our transport system.
The NZ Transport Agency and Christchurch City Council are investigating whether to introduce a cycle share scheme in Christchurch, and Auckland Transport is beginning a study into the introduction of a similar scheme for Auckland city centre.
“We now live in a world where technology is creating new ways to connect customers and service providers. These technologies have also opened the door to new ways of solving some of our long-standing transport challenges, with e-bikes already becoming part of the solution for cities around New Zealand,” Mr Bridges says.
“Cycle share schemes are an important part of the transport system in more than 700 cities internationally, and they hold real promise here.
“By researching the feasibility of a cycle share scheme for Auckland and in Christchurch, together with our partners we’re creating an opportunity to develop more integrated transport systems that give both residents and visitors, more options about how they get around our towns and cities.
“Cycle share schemes also have the potential to add value and optimise investment in cycleways and shared paths as these increase across the country.
I think it’s really positive that the government are getting in behind and supporting this, even if only at the investigation stage. While council’s/AT going it alone to introduce a scheme would is obviously possible, having the government also supporting any initiative will be extremely useful. I suspect part of this support will have come from seeing the positive response the UCF has had. For example, bikes now make up 9.4% of inbound morning peak traffic on Upper Queen Street, thanks in part to routes like the NW cycleway which in places has seen up to a 40% increase in usage over the last year. With a lot of good projects still to come, growth is only set to improve as the network continues to improve.
In Auckland, ATs feasibility study into bikeshare is expected to be made available by the end of September and AT say that if there is a strong case for a scheme, they hope to deliver it in the summer of 2019/20.
As part of the announcement, AT have put out this factsheet about the study. Included in it was this ‘winning formula’ for bikeshare. Depending on which areas are focused on, 10km² could cover the city centre pus the city-fringe suburbs so a decent area.
One aspect that is bound to be focused on a lot when the feasibility study is released is how it is proposed to deal with helmets. As much as I want to see bikeshare in Auckland (and elsewhere in NZ), it’s hard to see it working successfully over the long term with our our silly mandatory helmet laws in place. Bikeshare schemes certainly seem to have struggled in places where helmet laws exist, one such recent example was Seattle – but it’s problems were more than just helmets. Former Mayoral candidate Mark Thomas made an interesting suggestion the other day on the topic, that if we can’t change the law, perhaps councils should be able to designate some helmet free areas.
— Mark Thomas (@MarkThomasNZ) May 18, 2017
Then of course there are some more practical detail such how many bikes there are, where they’re located and what type of bikes get suggested. For example, could we see electric bike share proposed? That would certainly help make it easier to deal with Auckland’s hills
Lastly, it’s worth noting that some form of bikeshare already exists in both Auckland and Christchurch. Nextbike already provide some limited bikeshare in each city. Further, a consortium that includes Downers Construction are looking to pilot around 100 e-bikes around Auckland later this year. Some more detail about their proposal can be found from a presentation to the Council’s Environment and Community Committee.
We await the outcome of the feasibility study with interest.