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.

Citi Bike in New York

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.

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.

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    1. It would be cheaper to higher a few hundred bikes in Melbourne for an hour and load them into shipping containers and bring them back here. It is time we got something out of our ‘close relationship’ with Australia.

        1. No but there are plenty of our countrymen on Christmas Island or in Villawood who would let us use theirs. My own protest is to stop buying anything made in Australia if there is a choice. I am taking direct shiraz action.

    2. There is an emerging new system that has no fixed drop off location and getting popular in china – see mobike.

      Each bike has its own integrated GPS, 4G and auto lock system.

      Similar to Uber, user can return their bike anywhere and the next user can use the mobile phone APP to search for the closest bike left by other users.

      To combat people parking at illegal place/inside home and stealing parts, there is a user scoring system. User park their bike illegally will lose points. People reporting other user’s misbehaviour will gain point.

      User below a certain score will have to pay higher rental fee. Account is linked to some kind of real ID, so it is hard to create a lot of new accounts.

      It works out quite a successful system.

      1. I wonder if these systems have an approach of rewarding rebalancing the bunching of bikes. EG if there was a zone with high # of bikes compared to demand (let’s say Britomart) it could reward your account for taking the bike to a low #, high demand area (Universities).

        I’ve seen that implemented overseas for taking a bike from downhill station to an uphill station, but the possibilites of dynamically shifting zones with stationless bikes would be awesome.

  1. I love the idea of a bike share with e-bikes. I do question some aspects of the “winning formula” – Penetration and utilisation seem like best-case scenarios in the central city only, which create an opportunity lost.

    Any bike share needs to cover more than the CBD – It needs to act as a gateway drug, encouraging people to try it from suburbs (say) 5-8km away (fine on pedal-assist bikes, not fine for non-cyclists on regular bikes). Success would be an increase in regular commutes via cycles that are privately owned.

    As well as placing the infrastructure only where it is most likely to be used (Ponsonby, Mission Bay, Mt Eden), they should also put “pilot level” infrastructure in other areas not well served by infrastructure, so that those first few brave souls will use it (perhaps helped by lower pricing) and prove that a demand exists, which in turn justifies infrastructure upgrades. For example, Ellerslie is poorly served by cycling infrastructure (except for the trains, of course), yet Great South road is easily capable of accommodating segregated cycle lanes without removing massive chunks of foot path. Of course, what about the Shore or Manukau – Why should they be left out?

    1. I think it’s important to realise that cylicng in general, and bike share, are different things with different characteristics and needs.

      For bike share to work you need a high density of demand, and a pretty even distribution of demands. Bike share doesn’t work for getting people from their home to work or a train station unless these is strong demand for people to go to and from where their home is. It’s hard to see where that would happen on the Shore or in Manukau to be honest. It would work in Newmarket or Ponsonby, where there are plenty of people going to those places rather than just living there and going away from them

    2. I agree that ideally they would be e-bikes to make it easier for people to use in our hilly city but also so that unfit people can use them without getting a sweat up if they wish.
      The helmet law will have to go/be modified for this to work otherwise it just isn’t feasible to do if people need to have a helmet.

      Could be that helmets are no longer compulsory for adults or that they aren’t compulsory on approved bike share bikes (but in that case the effort is there so just make it across the board).

      There is a point that kids perhaps should still have helmets as they are less likely to fall and injure themselves. Of course if the law was changed so that they could ride on the footpath then they might not be needed then.

  2. The idea sounds good and worth exploring. However from my reading success has been mixed in other cities, and highest in those with good cycleways. I think the first priority should remain the expansion of a safe cycleway network, and that means segegated.

    1. A safe cycleway network doesn’t need to be segregated depends on average/posted speed limits & level of cyclists per day.

      For example the Dutch only really segregate if the posted speed limit is above 30km/h.

        1. Technically Queen St is 30kmh, but since when have you ever seen someone hold to that? IIRC there was a survey a few years back that found the average speed to be more likee 45kmh. Lower speed limits are great, but only when people alhold to them.

        2. One of the arguments for lowering George St to 30kmh was that it made it possible to take the drivers licences of any boy racers caught doing 80kmh rather than 100kmh!

        3. the only way I can see kiwi motorists obeying the 30km limits is with point to point cameras. Most think they are above the law.

      1. The only places the cycleways shouldn’t be totally separated from traffic is in neighbourhood greenways and shared zones, where cyclists are going slowly as well as everyone else. For the general network, where cyclists need to cover distance, they need to be completely separated. This is where we need to put our effort.

    2. Maybe we should review the vehicle speed limit in the city to conform to the 30kph of other cities like Dunedin and Christchurch. This will improve the situation for all road users, pedestrian cyclists and motorists
      Then we amend the law regarding helmets in those areas. This could then be spread to all non- arterial roads so that all streets where we live are 30kph.

  3. Bike share schemes helped solve the final mile commuter train problem in the Netherlands. Good info/stats/pics here

    This would no doubt would help Auckland. For Christchurch -if commuter rail is re-started then providing good bikeshare infrastructure around the train stations could compensate for the lack of CBD central train station. For instance from a Riccarton train station it would take only 5-10 minutes to bike through Hagley Park to get to the CBD. It would also be only 5-10 minutes to the University.

  4. Another thing can consider is electric stand up scooters.

    They are lighter and occuply less space, it is also better to zip though narrow roads.

    With the advancment of battery technology, they are just as fast as bike.

  5. This is a great idea once the helmet laws (or lack of them/ lack of enforcement of them) are sorted.
    When they run out at the designated areas, who will be responsible for collecting them from south Auckland where they have been ridden around on one wheel?

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