Through the streets of Australia, bright orange objects can be seen everywhere, either standing up, lying down or even on statues. Bikes commissioned by the company oBike, used as a pay as you go service by many Australians are being abandoned all over major cities in the country.
While the business model has prospered in European cities such as Dublin, Australian cities haven’t been so lucky. Utilising a slight variation, oBike users aren’t required to dock their bike when they have finished their journey. Instead bikes can be placed anywhere in the city on public property while users can find the bikes using the in-built GPS bike finding app.
Without docking stations, bikes have been left strewn in cities around the country. In Melbourne, they have had enough. Faced with fines of over $3000 for bikes left blocking paths, not removed within 2 hours, oBike, the Singaporean operator has admitted defeat. Broken or vandalized bikes needed to be removed within a week, while those left in waterways could be left for a week before fines were applied. Used in Sydney and Adelaide as well as the Victorian capital, Obike’s presence in the Australian market has been met with a lot of opposition resulting in this latest blow.
To rent a bike, users put down an initial deposit which is then put towards a yearlong membership. This should, in theory, prevent users from damaging bikes or throwing them into waterways but so far it hasn’t been the case. For just $1.99 for half an hour, these bikes offer a cheap alternative to buses and taxis.
In Dublin, one of the many European cities to use docking bicycles, the system has been a success. The scheme funded by JC Deceaux in exchange for advertising space has run successfully since 2009 with 15 new docking stations were introduced at the beginning of the year. Coca Cola has since sponsored the project along with local councils, while in 2017, food delivery company Just Eat took over the contract until the middle of the 2020’s. The scheme which has operated at a loss has seen bikes docked at stations in the city and is now expanding to outer urban areas.
There are plans afoot for operators that offer similar products to Obike with no docking stations to enter the market. However, the loss of bikes, money and eventually reputation seems like a risk not worth taking.