About a month ago and with no warning, Auckland’s city centre was suddenly flooded with Onzo’s. Onzo is a dockless bikeshare scheme, the same type that’s been popping up all over the world, although not always with great results. Simon Wilson over at the Spinoff wrote about Onzo here not long after they launched. The bikes themselves aren’t anything special, or with their one gear particularly well suited to Auckland conditions. None the less they appear to have been popular, helped by being very cheap at just 25c for 15 minutes. There has also been a fair bit of a novelty factor associated with them.
Initially Onzo bikes seemed to be everywhere, in many cases clogging up many of the city’s bike racks. But these days I’ve been noticing very few around the city. This is backed up by looking at the map on Onzo’s app showing only a handful around the city centre.
Interestingly the biggest cluster seems to be down in the corner of the viaduct close to Auckland Transport’s headquarters. As per this thread it sounds like they’re not actually there though and the building owners are clearing them away from buildings, which isn’t on. This the issue some areas looking like public space but are in fact private land.
If the bikes aren’t in the city, where are they? Zooming out a bit gives us this image and there are some outside of these points too.
There’s even one as far away as Dargaville.
Back to Auckland and looking closely, it appears many of those that have spread across the city are now sitting down long driveways and in people’s back yards. Effectively these ‘public’ bikes have been privatised by people. A case of the tragedy of the commons? Unfortunately, there was always going to be an element of this happening.
For bike share to succeed it really requires a certain level of density. There needs to be enough so that people are actually able to find a bike if they want one. This normally requires active management, redistributing bikes so they don’t all end up at the bottom of a hill. It doesn’t appear this is happening with Onzo and combined with how far the bikes have spread, has made the system pointless. What it has been useful in highlighting though is that any scheme that wants to succeed really needs to be much larger cover most of the city if it wants to avoid outcomes like this.