It’s not just the dumb State of Victoria mandatory helmet laws that are causing the Melbourne bike share scheme to be underutilised. It isn’t even that launching it in the middle of a Melbourne winter is the worst time to be launching the scheme.
Just take a look at the map of the stations here. There are only 50 stations all within walking distance of each other.
I’ve been watching the e2 Transport TV series from the American PBS. You can see a preview here. In the episode the rather lovely Céline Lepault, the Vélib Manager for the city of Paris from 2005-2008 says that by studying other working systems Paris decided that to have a system that operated well immediately they would need to start with a system of 10,000 bikes.
She says, “If you open with a system that is inadequate, people will have problems finding bikes, and they will tire of the system and then it’s very difficult to restart a project like that again.”
Melbourne started with 600 bikes. There are no bikes near Richmond Station, nor South Yarra, nor in South Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Albert Park, St Kilda, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Williamstown, Yarraville. There’s none at the Zoo. None at the MCG. None so you can have a nice ride up and down the Yarra.
So my take on it, with the silly helmet laws, the lack of bikes, and the very few stations is that the Melbourne Bike Share Scheme was set up to fail. It has been a flop, but that is what was wanted. Surely they couldn’t have got it so wrong just by fluke.
Or for a completely different view this bloke reckons they had 48 sites too many.
If your city doesn’t have enough money for a decent scheme, find some more money, and then locate them near train and tram stops, and out the front of museums and galleries, near parks and zoos, and places that people actually want to go. So near the shops and restaurants, and near the sporting facilities.
As it is Melbourne people, when your system fails, can you gift the lot to a city that could actually get by with only 50 racks full of bikes. Palmerston North springs to mind. For Melbourne I’d suggest 10,000 bikes, 2000 stations, a repeal of the helmet law, and some decent safe bicycle infrastructure.
At least Brisbane’s system is going to be based around the bike paths along the river, and is going to start with enough stations to make it useful. They’ll still have dumb mandatory helmet laws, but at least they don’t have a Melbourne Winter.