Dockless bike share in Australia, as we know it, is dead.
Over the last few months, those rascally two wheeled disruptors of urban transport, fed by billions of dollars in overseas venture capital, have now retreated from the many countries they had landed in only a year or so ago.
Some of these bike share companies have exhausted their cash reserves, some are in receivership and a few are hastily reconsidering their business models to focus on those cities where they are sustainable.
For Adelaide, this means we are without any dockless bike schemes with both OBike and OFO no longer operating. As for the wonderful Adelaide City Council funded Adelaide Free Bike scheme, which has been managed by Bike SA for the last 13 years, funding is currently scheduled to end December 31.
Bike SA is seeking expressions of interest from potential sponsors to see this program continue.
For a contemporary city that promotes itself as a leader in smart city innovation, the prospect of no bicycle share or hire schemes would be an embarrassment for Adelaide.
The International Transport Forum (OECD) released a report this month on the current state of play of bike share worldwide. There are now 4.5million share bikes throughout over 1,000 cities (small to mega) that are delivering a transformation in how citizens transport themselves for their daily business.
In fact, bike share is now one of the fastest growing modes of transport worldwide.
Bike SA made an announcement this week, confirming that it had purchased the Adelaide OFO fleet of over 450 bikes.
We must acknowledge the Adelaide management team of OFO that approached us with an offer to secure the fleet as they were very keen to leave a positive legacy for the Adelaide community and for the bikes to continue to be utilised in some form. Alexander Hender and his team are to be applauded for their social and community responsibility and dedication to supporting more people cycling. It was understandably devastating for their team to learn of OFO’s closure.
So, what now?
Bike SA sees significant potential in a local bike share scheme, but it must be viewed through the lens of ‘community benefit’ and more importantly as a key driver for transport behaviour change. When integrated with public transport services, bike share is proven to be truly transformative in re-shaping how citizens move about in their daily lives.
We are excited that the Adelaide City Council is equally engaged to find a way forward and is open to working with Bike SA to investigate potential delivery and business models that will better suit the needs of our local community.
In this respect Councillor Abiad has been front and centre in looking at how Council can meaningfully and responsibly support Adelaide “Bike Share 2.0”.
While much work needs to be done, with some robust and rapid political leadership, it would be a case of “farewell congestion” and “fare forward” to improved public health, reduced emissions and a greatly improved quality of life for those of us on two wheels and four.