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Melbourne’s bike share scheme will be scrapped due to a lack of use, the Victorian state government announced on Friday.
Introduced in 2010, the scheme reportedly costs $2 million a year to run but currently averages just one ride per bike per day. The system comprises 600 bikes spread across 50 docking stations throughout inner Melbourne.
“This scheme has raised the profile of cycling in Melbourne, but the bikes have reached the end of their functional life and [the scheme] no longer represents value for money for Victorians,” said the state Minister for Roads, Jaala Pulford. “By phasing out the bike share scheme we will create more space on our footpaths for pedestrians and bike parking, which is what regular cyclists and pedestrians tell us is needed in the CBD.”
Used mainly by tourists, rather than by locals for commuting or on other short trips, the scheme has struggled in part due to Victoria’s mandatory helmet laws. Most bikes don’t have helmets attached, and despite the availability of $5 helmets from local convenience stores — a program subsidised by the government — the lack of conveniently available helmets has worked against the bike share scheme.
The Greens have criticised the government’s decision to close down Melbourne Bike Share.
“It’s a lazy decision by the government,” said Greens transport spokesman Sam Hibbins. “The Melbourne Bike Share scheme was always a half-cooked scheme that needed more support to get it working.
“Whilst helmet laws and the free trams zone were obstacles that could be overcome, the low station density and lack of access in the inner suburbs were critical to the scheme’s poor performance.”
Motoring organisation RACV has run the scheme since its inception. The company’s general manager of mobility, Elizabeth Kim, told radio station 3AW on Friday morning that the RACV is also disappointed by the impending closure.
“It’s really a decision the government has made,” she said. “It’s something we are very disappointed with. I’m sure they’re thinking of the allocation of their budget and we respect that decision.”
Cycling advocacy group Bicycle Network, meanwhile, has urged the government to reuse the bikes in other Victorian cities, rather than throwing them away.
“The scheme was too small to work in Melbourne, but it is an ideal size for Victoria’s regional cities which are crying out for increased investment in bike riding and active transport,” said Anthea Hargreaves, Bicycle Network’s General Manager of Public Affairs, pointing to cities like Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.
“Instead of sending these good bikes to landfill we should use it as an opportunity to get more people riding and improve the health of our regions.”
It’s not yet clear when Melbourne Bike Share bikes and docking stations will be removed from city streets.