Sydney considering rental bikes

But helmet mandate may scupper plans

Sydney, Australia is the latest major city to consider a bike rental scheme along the lines of the successful programs already in place in Paris and Barcelona and being planned for Rome.

The City of Sydney council is investigating bike rentals after a recent survey found that more than 80 per cent of people favour the introduction of a public bike hire scheme in the City, and one in three people say they would definitely use it.

"There's been a lot of good feedback so there is the potential for it to work," City of Sydney spokesperson Leanne Lincoln told BikeRadar.

However, Sydney has one obvious impediment to a bike rental scheme that doesn't afflict the European cities where the scheme has been a success: mandatory helmet use.

In Paris, casual users can pick up a bike from the Velib scheme and ride away. In Sydney, though, they'd have to have a helmet with them, and if you already have a helmet with you, presumably you already have a bike.

Whether that will be a stumbling block or not remains to be seen, says Lincoln. "There's going to have to be some investigation, obviously, because of issues like that."

Nevertheless, Sydney council under Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP is making positive noises about cycling. "The City's Cycling Strategy is all about encouraging greater and safer use of bikes - to boost fitness but also to reduce car usage and subsequently pollution and congestion," she says.

"It makes sense that the City would seriously investigate whether a public hire scheme would work in Sydney. They are certainly booming in many other parts of the world."

Introduction of a bike rental scheme in Sydney might depend on the prior provision of better cycling facilities; 66 per cent of people who expressed an interest in cycling said improved cycling facilities would boost their use of the service, the survey found.

That might be a chicken and egg situation though. Do better facilities encourage cycling or do more people riding make provision of better facilities - including perhaps a rental scheme - compelling? Ms Lincoln says it's not necessarily a conundrum. "We're willing to trial [ideas like a rental scheme] before taking them on, so it depends what the studies determine."

© BikeRadar 2007

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