Melbourne gets public bike hire

Compulsory helmet wearing laws make scheme "challenging"

Melbourne, Australia has become the latest major city to roll out a public bike hire scheme – but civic leaders have had to make special provisions due to its compulsory helmet wearing laws.

Ten docking stations around the central business district are available so far, with 100 bicycles on offer. By the end of next month there will be 600 bikes, docked at 50 stations. The Melbourne Bike Share scheme will reportedly cost AU$5.5 million over four years.

Hiring a bike costs $2.50 a day or $8 for a week, paid by swiping a credit card at the docking station. Regular users can get a keycard in return for a $50 annual subscription fee. Then, the first 30 minutes of bike hire is free. If it is not returned within 24 hours there is a $500 penalty.

Roads minister Tim Pallas said Victoria's state helmet laws had made the scheme ''challenging''. Users will have to bring their own helmets as they won’t be available for hire with the bikes. However, those joining the scheme will be issued with a free helmet, while hotels and other city outlets will have cheap helmets available for hire or purchase.

The bikes feature adjustable seat height, disc brakes, three hub gears and a carrying basket, and weigh around 18kg (40lb). Running of the scheme has been contracted out to RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) and US firm Alta Bicycle Share, which runs similar systems in four North American cities.

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