Melbourne bike share scheme starts slowly

Compulsory helmets may be a factor

Melbourne Bike Share machines gathering dust

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There are reportedly only 70 trips a day being made on Melbourne’s brand spanking new public bike hire facility. Although Melbourne Bike Share now has 600 bikes and 50 docking stations, the lack of take-up is being blamed on Victoria’s mandatory cycle helmet-wearing laws.

Last Saturday, supporters of the bike share scheme who blame low usage on the helmet laws conducted a protest ride without helmets, a number being fined. One of those booked, Dr Paul Martin, a specialist anaesthetist in Brisbane, said, “The system is only being used to 0.5 per cent of its capacity, which is a crying shame.”

Melbourne Bike Share say that:  “Those using the scheme will need to bring their own helmet, or purchase one from a handy location near the bike station. “ They offer a low-cost helmet for purchase by subscribers with their annual membership. When the facility first opened, Roads Minister Tim Pallas said: “We expect regular users of the system will prefer to provide their own helmet, however these other options do allow people to use the system spontaneously.”

In a recent interview about cycling in Melbourne, renowned Danish cycling pundit Mikael Colville-Andersen said of Melbourne Bike Share: “The helmet law will be the major spanner in the works. I can’t see the system working to any effective level. Interestingly, Mexico City and Israel both repealed their helmet laws when they launched their bike share schemes. The laws were discouraging cycling. Even the Northern Territory repealed their law for the same reason.”

Official opinion on helmet wearing remains as divided as ever. Few countries have any national laws and some, such as the USA leave it to local jurisdiction. Requirements for young people to wear a helmet seem more popular than ones covering all ages.

Public bike hire schemes continue to be introduced all across the globe, and appear to be going from strength to strength:

UK: London’s scheme begins on Friday and 3000 people have already registered (they will be the only people who can use the bikes during the first month).

USA: Nice Ride Minnesota in Minneapolis reports 25,000 trips in its first 40 days.

Germany: Metroradruhr is bringing bike sharing to ten industrial Ruhr valley cities, a bit of a departure as most schemes up to now have been for one city – this is a single system connecting nearby cities.

Canada: Montreal’s scheme registered more than a million rides in its first month of operation, and Toronto launches its facility in May 2011.

UK: Blackpool were happy enough with the performance of their initial 60 bike scheme to be expanding it to a 500 bike one over the rest of this year.

Cyprus: 285 bicycles and 24 docking stations should be in place in Nicosia by early autumn. 

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China: There are reports that Beijing will have 50,000 bikes for public hire by 2015.