E-bikes come to Melbourne

A reporter for the Guardian asked me about a story the reporter was writing, but my comments were never included in the final story, so here they are, for posterity.

I’m currently working on a story about a new electric-bike sharing service coming to Melbourne early this March and I would love to include your professional opinion in the article.

The company, owned by Uber, claim to be a sustainable transport service that is good for the environment as well as an efficient and good way of travelling in the City of Melbourne. The bikes will also come to the City of Yarra and the City of Port Phillip.

Based on previous negative responses to bike sharing services, what are your thoughts on a new service coming into Melbourne, and will it actually be received well by residents of the city?
What’s to prevent these bikes from being treated with the same attitudes as previous attempts?

I appreciate the time taken to respond to this email, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Comments to The Guardian:

Electric bike-sharing differs from non-e-bike sharing in a few ways.

  • Because they are e-bikes, they are faster and more useful (can reach more places with less physical effort in a given time). So they should attract more users if they are not too expensive.
  • Note also that e-bikes are heavier. It will be harder to throw them in a tree or in a river or down a ravine, it will require more effort on the part of the vandal.  In Sydney LimeBikes (which are e-bikes that have been around for just over a year) have not suffered the same vandalism problem as previous shared bikes.
  • The problem of where to store them remains. Ideally cities would have local geo-fenced bike storage areas (maybe every block) so the parked bikes don’t block the footpaths, with appropriate signage and information on the apps so users know where and how to appropriately park the shared bikes.
  • Also there is the problem of helmets – they often get separated from the shared bikes, but helmet law enforcement is perceived as onerous by many bike users.