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.

Share this


  1. That AT building owner doing that is outrageous – it’s akin to confiscating all the other visitors’ private bicycles parked outside the AT offices

    1. I’d imagine *change* in the form of Onzo precipitated action where there’d be none against actual illegal parking of private cars or taxis, eg those who shouldn’t be parked in loading zones or on footpaths or over driveways. *Change* is so scary for some.

    2. Indeed Cargill Street, this behaviour is outrageous. And what is even moreit is baffling given that when AT was domiciled in Corinthian Drive, a motorist could literally choose to park their car anywhere in the vicinity -verge, green area etc. And at Akoranga Station you can park a car anywhere, never mind any yellow lines.
      Am I missing something? Is the provision of car parking regarded by AT as some sort of social imperative that they are required to provide at the lowest possible cost? And maybe the provision of these bikes is seen as a threat as they surpass any saving in greenhouse emissions that AT have been able to achieve in the last few years?

    3. Someone was concerned or perhaps delighted enough by the bikes to put in a LGOIMA request on Nov 6, and appears to work in the vicinity, so maybe several people took umbrage…

    1. NZ’s peculiar requirement for mandatory helmets is actually one of the reasons that has been holding back public bike-sharing schemes. In Europe – you just hire a bike. Here, you have to wear a helmet when you hire a bike, and as they can’t rely in you to have your own, they’re obliged to make one available. So you don’t share nits, I’ve even heard of possible free plastic hair caps, to be worn under your mandatory helmet. There – you’ve lost me for ever right there. I’d rather walk than wear a hairnet and a helmet.

  2. This is why many bike share schemes don’t have docks outside of the city centre. The bikes are for people to use once they are in the city, where trips are bidirectional. This minimises the amount of redistribution needed. It doesn’t work for commuting from the suburbs as the bikes will be gone from the suburbs by 6:30am, and gone from the city by 16:00.

    Within the city the docks are used all day long. My train/bus might terminate at britomart and I use a bike to get uptown. Then someone from dom rd gets of a bus that terminates uptown and they use the same bike to get to their office downtown.

    1. In Montreal they have 540 shared bike system docks, the majority of which are not directly in the CBD. It is true that with many being used for commuting from the suburbs a number of docking stations end up being empty early in the day and yes this requires a lot of redistribution. However, I don’t think this is a reason to not have these bike sharing systems outside of the city centre. I would argue that not having enough bikes at the end of the day is an issue of not having enough bikes in the system. If those same people are commuting in and out of the city each day – which provides bikes to be used during the day, surely you just have a few more in the CBD docks to allow for leftovers at the end of the day – a constant juggling act, but I think seeing the bike sharing vehicles out around town makes the system feel more active and alive.

      1. It just seems you need so much more capital and operating costs. To have some left over in the evening for people to use for social engagements after work, and also for there to be some in the morning for public transport users to complete their journey before the suburban users bring the bikes back, then you need

        1) More bikes
        2) More docks
        3) More public spaces used up by docks
        4) More redistribution of bikes against the morning/evening peaks.

        1. Yeah you are right. I guess the hope is that those that are taken home by commuters at the end of the work day may be used for people to get around that area too and not just left sitting until the morning.

  3. unsure of onzo but in sydney some of the bikes seem to randomly come with a helmet while others do not. You can buy a $7 helmet from kmart tho.

  4. I wish they weren’t placed in the bike racks, crowding out regular bikes — they have a kickstand and a built-in lock so they don’t need either of the bike racks’ functions.

    1. It’s amazing the unintended consequences that occur when technology and change affect the way that previously underutilised resources like bike racks are used.

      1. The bike racks in the central city have not been under utilised…it’s been hard to find a bike park in the city for at least 2 years and these bikes being left everywhere have made it near on impossible…it’s very annoying for those of us who ride our own bike…

  5. A different operator (can’t remember the name) has launched in Singapore and KL. Aside from the complaints they are left randomly on footpaths and block people’s way (not that many people walk in KL), an extraordinary number have ended up in the rivers that run through both cities…

    On a more positive note, was in London recently and that scheme seems to get a fair bit of use from commuters. Plenty of people cycling in office gear (it was early November), getting on/off them near London Bridge station. No compulsory helmet law no doubt helps.

    1. It works in London because you have to return the bike to docking station to avoid continuous charges to your debit or credit card. Make distribution easier and prevents bikes going awol.

  6. Definitely less of them around, was using them to go back and forward from Viaduct to Wynyard. Last few days they don’t seem to be there.

  7. A lot of bikes where keep inside people backyard and make unavailable to pubic.

    Onzo need to punish those selfish users.

    They can do so by suspend offender’s user account, freeze their deposit, blacklist their phone number, blacklist their credit card, blacklist their credit card’s name + DOB as well so they can’t register with another card with friend’s phone number.

    Offender are given chance to clear that, by bring that bike back to public place within 48 hours.

    If the offender ignores, they will get a fine and debt collector will collect it. The fine should be significant that pays for the bike itself.

    Another thing is Onzo still need to encourage people to park their bike in ‘preferred spots’

    They do so by rewarding those who park the bike in ‘preferred spots’ such as train stations/popular spots by giving them discounts or credits.

    That will encourages bikes clustered near preferred spots and make the Onzo management easier. Onzo can install CCTV around those spots and have manned security guards to prevent vandalism.

    1. ” Onzo can install CCTV around those spots and have manned security guards to prevent vandalism.”

      – and still make a profit on 25c for 15 mins? All too hard to prove and enforce a lot of the other suggestions I suspect?

      I think you could have system of reward for users that you get a small account credit when the next user is someone other than yourself (and perhaps it’s within a time limit of say 12 hrs). Won’t be a perfect system, but would encourage users to leave the bikes accessible to others & would even encourage users to get others to sign up.

      1. This company is not making money on 25c…trust me…like others have suggested on other forums, these sorts of companies are making money out of data transactions…this guy however has completely misunderstood the small scale of nz market…

    2. For more dense city areas maybe you could have just some, say 1/3 to 1/2 of the bikes specially marked city zone that have a penalty if not returned to general kind of zone or dock I guess. Want to keep things simple though. App could tell you when leaving the city (or a dense) zone and charge $1 extra if not kept or returned to there within a set time limit of say three hours. Certainly should be a penalty if you remove it from the Auckland region, being an arse and taking one to Dargaville.

    3. Hard to prove that it was YOU (last user) who took a bike into private property, or chained it up. After all, you can just pick it up without unlocking. Someone – especially in a shared flat / large property situation – could easily claim it was somebody else who took it inside from the footpath where they claim to have left it, and no one could prove otherwise.

      Unless the system can somehow stomach a level of this happening, without going financial belly-up, then I don’t see it lasting long, and a dock-based scheme implemented instead.

  8. It’s all been done before and ended quite the same. In the late sixties Amsterdam s white bike scheme ended with all the bikes in the canals.

      1. All these schemes seem to come with a high price to the general public, whether that be in the form of subsidies or clean-up…everyone says we need one, but do we? These people riding these crappy bikes are doing so because it’s super cheap…otherwise they would walk like they did before…such cheap rates are not sustainable….i don’t get it….

        1. “high price to the public”? If AY had to hire somebody to do nothing but pick rental bikes off the footpaths all day, it would be a small subsidy compared to what we pay for other transport modes. A large intersection (of the kind we keep building everywhere because more and more cars) can cost between 300,000 and 500,00 dollars easily.

          Slinging around words like “huge costs” without context is just not helpful, and, in some instances, outright propaganda. Like Lisa Prager’s winging about huge cycleway expenses when we still are spending less than 5% of our transport budget on a mode that (in her area) already is used by more than 5% of all people every morning.

        2. Sigh……….the real cost is to the environment…crappy bikes manufactured by polluting Chinese companies, who sell to companies off-shore who don’t care at all about the outcome of their failure….what do you think happens to the bikes that break down, get vandalised, are dumped etc…they don’t just magically disappear…they are another form of single-use plastic and disposable baby diapers…think about that, just for a minute….at least 1,000 bikes in Auckland being dumped in landfill over the next 12 months…do you understand what that means? That’s the cost I’m referring to……….

        3. Yes, it’s an excellent concern. So is there info on a city that has done a bike share scheme well? Or would you suggest, John, that we’d do better just concentrating on free frequent fast central city buses and excellent walking infrastructure and priority?

        4. Personally I don’t know of any city that has not had major issues with any form of bike sharing scheme…they end up costing a lot of money for a lot of different reasons…and nothing I’ve seen shows a decent ROI on any level. When a city becomes truly cycle friendly, most residents end up buying their own bike and visitors simply use bike rental shops. Once people adopt cycling, they find share bikes almost impossible to ride due to their low quality…in Taipei on a visit 5 years ago I still remember a horror ride across the city on a bike built for midgets that had no gears and other componentry rusting up….I gave up and just walked instead…

      1. Yep, In my view he’d basically stolen the bike. If he wants one on the ferry he can leave it unlocked and be paying for it. If he’s tagged off it’s fair game and I’m taking it

        1. ahhh yes I see what you mean. I saw one at bottom of a walkway and wondered if someone was up the top in the park expecting to return and use it again.

  9. I was wondering why it looked like there were 30 bikes outside AT, but there was nothing there when I went to have a look. Why couldn’t the idiot building managers just stick them on the footpath so people could actually find them and use them.

  10. Saw a couple on Waiheke on the weekend (being used though!).

    Onzo is likely to fail (or already failing) for the various reasons outlined by everyone..however its doing a great public service – free trial experience for Auckland Council, seeing what works and what doesnt so the same mistakes arent made. I bet internally theyre really pleased that someone else is doing the dirty work for them.

    1. Few people seem to remember that a different company who now has bikes down on Panuku Development land started out by letting people lock bikes where they wanted, and it resulted in Auckland Council passing a bylaw preventing anyone from hiring bikes on the street…that was a few years ago…few people also seem to realise that Auckland Transport manage the footpaths from the edge of private property all the way through to the road, and commercial operations are not supposed to be able to use this land for anything they do not have express permission for (i.e.: no commercial activity unless they have a street trading licence)…in the central city, you’re not even supposed to put out sandwich boards…so if legitimate retailers aren’t allowed to use the footpath to promote their business, why should this guy be allowed to do it?? Just ask any city centre retailer/small business owner about this scheme…most are unimpressed….why is he being allowed to clog up streets, foothpaths, and eventually our parks and harbours when these crappy bikes break down…which they will do, very quickly…seen several broken ones this morning….

      1. With our sprawl, there’s a huge latent demand for being able to combine cycling and PT. So if it’s not a bike share scheme we need (and I can see the problems with it!) is it that we need better amenity to take private bicycles on buses and trains including at peak hour?

        1. Bikes take up a lot of space and are slow to load if they have a special compartment. The answer is probably good bike storage for your own bike at your local station and bike share in the denser areas to complete your trip.

        2. Folding bikes is the answer to taking private bikes with you on PT. Public bike share schemes with docks is the other answer.

        3. I don’t think folding bikes is the solution really. We’re needing a solution that can be incrementally adopted by a wide group of demographics, including those that can’t afford or wouldn’t think of folding bikes initially. Enthusiasts can and will buy folding bikes, but to grow the pool of enthusiasts, we need to make it easy for people to make small step-changes into using active transport modes. So I think Jezza’s answer makes sense.

        4. Yes to Jezzas solution. If you look at Northern Europe bike parking at stations is huge.

          But it doesn’t help with all journeys, if your destination is not the CBD then bike sharing is not an option, so you either need two bikes, one of which you leave locked at a station overnight (and is an old clunker so when it gets stolen you are not too worried). Or you get a folding bike.

          We need solutions that can be adopted by a wide group of demographics. The current situation where Bike Barn only stocks road competition bikes, and off road mountain-bikes does not suit people who see cycling a means of transportation. In the UK folding bikes start at about NZ$280, so they are not by any means an expensive solution only for enthusiasts.

          Folding bikes are also popular for inner city residents where bike storage at home is a problem. They can easily sit in a cupboard under the stairs of a terraced house for example.


        5. Buying a bicycle over here was somewhat fascinating.

          Some people genuinely don’t know what Europeans mean if they refer to a bicycle as just a ‘bicycle’. (if you’re wondering: it’s sometimes called a ‘city bike’ or ‘upright bike’)

          I noticed that in the Bike Barn too. I asked for a bike. Then I asked for a city bike. Then I explained what a city bike is. Then the conclusion was that they probably didn’t stock whatever I was looking for.

          And you don’t just buy a bike. You buy a bike, lights, a bell, a kickstand, mudguards, a luggage rack, reflectors, a lock, a helmet, etc.

          More recently I started to notice city bikes in some shops. First the ones with fancy branding and styling (Amsterdam blah blah blah) and a 4 digit price tag. In case you still had any doubt about bicycling being a thing for upper class hipsters. Now you can also find more mundane models if you look around.

          Bike storage is also a problem. If you have an apartment in the CBD it’s much easier to find a place to park a car, than a place to store a bicycle.

        6. No one has mentioned e-bikes…they are game changing…as for ‘city bikes’…no way you want to ride one of those European clunkers around OUR city…perhaps that’s why Bike Barn were perplexed by your request…

        7. I ride a city bike everyday around Auckland. It’s no clunker. The built in dynamo lights, mudguards and rack are perfectly suited to our wet and windy city. The upright riding position gives much better visibility of traffic without getting a crook in your neck.

        8. Each to their own…to me, the bike your ride is a clunker…my bike covers all sorts of terrain…no need to buy more than one bike…that’s how NZ is…cycling here is not just riding around city streets…

        9. 🙂 City streets need mountain bike tyres anyway. I love my hybrid. Copes with most drains, cracks, roots and new seal admirably.

        10. Absolutely agree…the cycle lanes around Auckland are in all sorts of interesting shape..can understand the desire for a very basic bike if budget is an issue…but once you get used to a better spec’ed bike, there is no going back…no matter how short the distance ridden…

  11. I have a feeling they didn’t price in the need to have a Van, employee full time redistributing the bikes as required. Sad but needed.

    Also need to ditch the helmet law to make more attractive.

  12. This scheme is poorly executed and even more poorly managed…it was literally a bike dumping scheme, and the owner clearly has zero experience in managing such things…

      1. Don’t agree…it needs to track back to the owner of this business…he’s not interested in public good…if he was, he would have worked with council, government and associated community groups to make it happen…he didn’t…how would you feel if a ‘naive’ food truck operator decided to turn up in your street and customers decided to trash the street as a result of his business? few would tolerate it…why are we tolerating this guy? He has blocked my bike parks all over the city and AT are yet to even respond to my complaint…like he is allowed to do it…when legitimate businesses aren’t….it is absolutely NOT ON….

        1. Some of your comments are totally valid, though I don’t necessarily agree with the severity with which you hold them.

          But I do hope you are not using Uber though, because those folks do the same kind of things times 100. Heck, even standard taxi operators are constantly breaking the law, and the limitations the rules set for them. And yet, the city copes somehow.

          One bike share scheme is hardly going to cause widespread havoc with a couple hundred bikes in a city of over a million.

  13. Tried to contact support because I found a couple of broken off locks – was impossible. Guess people had stolen the bikes. Still an awesome service though, just needs a bit more finesse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *