Q. What’s a public transport system without hire bicycles?
Yep, I think it is as simple as that.
I’m just back from an Australian jolly. Adelaide was looking a little bit untidier than I remembered it, and Brisbane always seems to be a little bit nicer every time I go back. Since my last visit Brisbane’s opened 3 new bridges across the river, the bus (and bicycle) one down by the University of Queensland, the new Go Between Bridge for cars off the end of Hale St, and the Kurilpa Bridge for cyclists and pedestrians near the Gallery of Modern Art. Brisbane City Council is a bit schizophrenic, on the one hand they’re on a road tunneling binge, with more tunnels than the Faeroe Islands, and on the other hand it is quite innovative for an Australian city in that it is giving cycling some thought.
For instance here’s the standard of bike path near the Regatta Hotel ferry dock. Paved, wide and car-free, just like all city bike paths should be.
And they’ve just introduced City Cycle, which is Brissie’s bike share scheme. I’ve been saying that bike share schemes are brilliant, but I hadn’t actually tried one out. So I thought I better. I packed my helmet all the way from Wellington. I didn’t need it for safety reasons, as I was only following the riverside paths, or I was on quiet roads, but I needed it to keep the ever vigilant idiots who’d tell me to wear a helmet, if I wasn’t, quiet. There’s been a bit of discussion about Melbourne and Brisbane’s schemes and mandatory helmets, so I shalln’t go over it here, other than to say the laws are daft and we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.
My girlfriend and I were getting around by train and ferry, so we rode a CityCat Ferry upriver to the West End and we found our first docking station. The system was really simple. We’d got a 1 day code each and clicked out our bikes. The bikes are really sturdy. They have the low step through frame (so suitable for the elderly too), and a front basket, and 3 gears. The 1st gear is good for small hills, 2nd is comfy, and 3rd is for a little speed. The system is run by advertising revenues, and the advertising is only a little intrusive. (For what it’s worth my girlfriend says there is too much sugar in that brand of ice tea) (And also for what it is worth, what is it with those 2 stroke scooters pulling advertising billboards, riding around in threes in the CBD – why the hell are they allowed to pollute so much for something as useless as a billboard?)
Riverside Drive in West End has been traffic-calmed in the most delightful way, by prohibiting cars from the road altogether. That’s something I’d like to see a lot more of in all Australasian cities. Roads after all, are for bikes, not for cars.
And in Queensland footpaths are also for bikes. It’s not illegal to ride on the footpath in Qld, which is I think is quite a good idea, except for places of high foot traffic. The riverside bike paths can be ridden all the way from UQ to Newstead House, with only a few short hops onto roads.
The Brisbanites are calling the new Kurilpa Bridge (below) the Coathanger and saying it doesn’t get much foot or bike traffic. I say bah humbug to them, it’s great. We were visiting the galleries so we wanted to drop the bikes off at a station somewhere nearby, but they’re not all installed yet, so we crossed over the river on the bridge and went looking for another station.
I didn’t feel like riding in CBD traffic, but I needn’t have worried. George Street has contraflow bike lanes. This is more of the type of bike infrastructure that keeps cyclists safe, rather than helmets. Notice the lack of parked cars. Again roads are for bikes, not cars, so keep the parked cars away from the bike lanes.
And another station, this one on George Street. It is hardly very intrusive into the footpath. If it was, just take car lanes out.
After 3 months subscriber numbers are apparently low. The placement of stations in Brisbane are a lot more useful than the inadequate Melbourne ones, and the BCC does realise that visitors are going to want to ride them, and they will want to ride them along the safe riverside paths. However not all the planned stations are in yet. Eventually they’ll stretch from St. Lucia to near Breakfast Creek. With the excellent ferry services, and what actually is a really excellent bike hire scheme I would contemplate not bothering to get a car if I ever lived in Brisbane again. If I was the BCC or the Queensland Government I would run a trial of sanctioned helmetlessness for City Cycle and promote it well to the locals. It really has the potential to work incredibly well for locals and tourists alike. As an adjunct to a city’s public transport system, and as a great asset that improves people’s lives in an environmentally friendly and safe way it really can’t be beaten. Integrate it into the go-card. And let 14 year olds and up ride it, not just over 18s.
If you live in Brisbane, subscribe.
If you live in another city, ask for such a system.