Melbourne sours on oBikes

Melbourne’s first taste of dockless bike share has turned sour with environmental authorities moving to squeeze the yellow machines from the city’s footpaths.

The Environmental Protection Authority has threatened $3000 fines per bike for littering when the oBike operator does not deal with carelessly abandoned bikes.

oBike has been issued with a Litter Abatement Notice, in force for the next three years, that puts strict time limits on the removal of any damaged or dumped oBikes, or any that are causing a nuisance or endangering the public.

Dockless bike share is sweeping the world and has enormous promise as a healthy and convenient transportation option in bustling big cities.

But in the race to get established and seize footpath real estate, cashed up operators flooded cheap bikes onto streets willy-nilly with hardly a thought for community amenity.

The rollout of oBike in Melbourne was slapdash and the bikes were more admired for the dockless concept than actually ridden.

Soon they were littering the streets, laneways, and rivers, and sentiment turned against them.

At the time, launch was assumed by the state government and Melbourne councils, there were limited regulatory powers to control the commercial deployment of dockless bike share.

At the same time, the Singapore based operator rushed the machines out with little attempt to liaise with the authorities.

Now the EPA has blown the whistle.

“The authorities are responding to a disruptive technology that has become a nuisance, an eyesore and a hazard to people’s safety. Whilst not wishing to stifle innovation in anyway, EPA will act to protect the environment for all Victorians,” Niall Finegan, EPA CEO said.

“Some people have been vandalising oBikes, turning them into makeshift art, and dumping them where they create a hazard on land or in the Yarra River. It is annoying the community and damaging the liveability of this city.

“EPA and the City of Melbourne are working together with a set of requirements that has been carefully chosen to allow the company to operate its business but stop the bikes from becoming pollution, inconveniencing the community or creating a hazard,” he said.

The Litter Abatement Notices require oBikes to be removed within prompt time limits:

  • 2 hours for oBikes creating a hazard, such as blocking a street;
  • 24 hours for damaged or vandalised oBikes;
  • 24 hours for oBikes cluttering the street in excessive numbers;
  • 48 hours for oBikes in inappropriate situations, such as on a roof, up a tree or on inaccessible land, and;
  • 7 days for any oBike found in a waterway.

“Our officers also met with representatives of the company to find out more about its structure and its intended solutions to the problems of dumped, damaged and inappropriately discarded oBikes,” he said.

“The rules laid out in the Litter Abatement Notices give oBike and any other bicycle sharing company a clear set of rules, and consequences if those rules are not followed.”