As it happens the Melbourne Leader had an article on it this week:
The State Government-funded scheme has attracted just 185 subscribers and 1350 trips since its launch in May, with BYO helmets and high deposit costs appearing to discourage would-be users.
Assuming those figures were from 11th July (the date before the article), that means 1350 trips since 31st May, or 42 days, which means about 32 trips per day.
The rate of trips per day does not appear to be growing. An RACV media release from 22nd June said at the time they’d clocked up 700 rides. That’s also 32 trips per day. Which is not to say it won’t grow in the future of course, as university restarts, and more bikes get rolled-out.
The Leader article mentions there are currently 100 bikes, so each bike has been used, on average, once every three days.
The other week I watched ABC2’s e2 programme on the Paris bike share system Vélib’, which seems to have been a big success. According to Wikipedia (and from memory the programme said similar things), it has 20,000 bicycles and 1,639 stations, and it’s apparently spread well beyond central Paris. It has a similar pricing scheme to Melbourne, geared at short trips, with free hire for the first half-hour.
Paris’s system has about 120,000 trips per day, so on average each bike is used 6 times per day. Clearly we’ve got a long way to go in Melbourne. I’m just not sure if it’s going to take off.
I haven’t seen people using the bikes, but I’m told those that are seem to be grabbing them and riding around without helmets, suggesting they’re tourists unaware of the helmet rules, or locals willing to risk the fine. Presumably at least some are rocking up with their own helmet to use.
Now, I don’t mind the concept of bike share. Cycling, particularly in the CBD and inner-suburbs, has matured over the last few years. In fact if there are any public main streets I’d feel safe cycling on, it would be in the CBD, where with some exceptions, there’s very little traffic.
But I still struggle to see where the market for Melbourne Bike Share is, given most Melburnians arrive in the CBD with an all-day ticket they can use on trams for short trips, and tram services along most CBD corridors are very frequent (though admittedly slow and overcrowded much of the time).
And it’s the helmet requirement that is really going to prevent a lot of people using it. Even proponents seem to accept that this casts doubt on whether it’ll work.
Update 23/7/2010: While the Leader article says there are currently 100 bikes, today’s Age article and the official web site both say there are 600 bikes. However, I attempted to count the total number of bikes using the station map, and came up with 314.