Pre-state budget, there were strategic leaks of various initiatives. One that got a lot of press is the bike hire scheme. It’s a $5 million dollar scheme to have a bunch of inner-city bike stations where people can hire a bike.
Obviously there’s some detail to come out here. Where will they put them? How much will it cost to hire? What will they do about helmets?
In truth though, I’ve got my doubts.
Melbourne MP and Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said the plan would be sustainable and affordable and help alleviate inner city congestion.
Will it really alleviate congestion? Cycling, walking and particularly public transport already dominate inner-city trips, especially those into the CBD.
If you’re the type of person who is still driving into the CBD, it’s either because you’re finding the PT so poor for your particular trip (over-crowded, or not serving your suburb) or because you’re the type of die-hard Neil Mitchell-loving revhead who won’t give up their car for anything — and certainly won’t be getting onto some lycra-loving hippy bicycle.
So actually I think it’s unlikely to do anything for inner city congestion.
If you’re coming into the inner-city by public transport, do you really want to hop on a bike? Only, perhaps, if the last bit of your trip takes you beyond walking distance from where you jump off the tram/train/bus, and the connections aren’t very good. It would depend on where the bikes are located, but if you’re travelling for work, I’d guess you’re unlikely to rent a bike if you have to pay for 8-9 hours while you’re at work. But even if not, I’m not sure most people would bother.
For people who are inclined to cycle, what’s stopping them from doing so now? Bikes are dirt cheap, that’s not really a concern. I suggest the number one thing stopping more people cycling now is exactly why I don’t cycle very much: I’m chicken. With the lack of a fully-functioning bike lane/path network, most people have to mix it with general traffic to get where they’re going, and their sense of self-preservation means they aren’t willing to do it.
We remain sceptical. We do not think the barrier is the bike; you can get a bike from the hard rubbish. The reason people are not riding is not because they do not have a bike. It is because they do not have somewhere to ride. As soon as you provide places to ride, people will get bikes. As the bicycle ecosystem develops, when it is comfortable for kids and cautious women to ride, as Senator Hutchins was talking about before, you may need hire bikes available that you can pick up for a small fee to get yourself, in Melbourne terms, down to St Kilda Road or something like that. We think that we are not quite there yet: that is a bit of an after-university thing and we are still at high school in the business of bikes. So we think it is very early to make this investment. They are quite expensive; all up, if you were to divide the number of bikes by the investment, they are going to be $8,000 bikes sitting on the side of the road.
I think I pretty much agree with him. I’m unlikely to use it, and my own bike will continue to sit at home most of the time until I see bike paths and lanes that’ll take me where I want to go.
(I could see myself hiring a bike for a joy-ride along the river. But that’s possible now, and would only ever be an occasional thing.)
What do you think? Would you use it?
PS. 4:45pm. Forgot to mention, apparently the bike hire trial conducted by RMIT has had a lot of registrations, but few people actually hiring the bikes.