oBike to leave Melbourne after crackdown on bicycle share company
The sight of yellow bicycles up trees and abandoned in rivers could become a thing of the past in Melbourne, after oBike announced it would abandon its problematic local hire scheme.
The Singapore-based company introduced the dockless bike hire service in Melbourne a year ago, in competition with the Melbourne Bike Share program, which requires riders to pick up and drop off bikes at stations dotted around the city.
Bikes have often been spotted up trees and on roofs across inner Melbourne. (ABC News: Shelley Lloyd)
But the distinctive yellow bicycles quickly caused headaches as people dumped them on footpaths and streets.
Others have been thrown into waterways, including the Yarra River, found up trees and on roofs, and been converted into street art.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the City of Melbourne was now working with the company to remove the bikes.
She recommended people stop using the service.
Cr Capp said oBike had not provided a reason for leaving Melbourne.
She said the company had tried to comply with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) set out by the council to regulate the scheme, but there had been hurdles.
“I think what’s made it very difficult for everybody involved is the behaviour of people using the oBikes, [it’s] really added a degree of difficulty to the way these issues have played out,” she said.
“So I put it back on the community of Melbourne really, to say that if we want to have these sorts of operators within our city then we need to have behaviours that respect the way in which we use them.”
Last month, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) revealed tighter deadlines for the company to clean up dumped or damaged bikes, threatening large fines if it did not do so.
Bikes were deliberately placed on this fence in inner Melbourne. (Twitter: Anton Wintergerst)
Under the new regulations, bicycles creating hazards need to be moved within two hours, and those cluttering streets in excessive numbers must be gone within 24 hours.
The company also has 24 hours to removed damaged or vandalised bikes, 48 hours for bikes in “inappropriate situations” like up trees or on roofs, and seven days to collect bikes in waterways.
The City of Melbourne was also given the power to fine oBike $3,000 every time oBike failed to comply.
The company had until June 13 to get up to speed on the rule changes.
“It has meant that the operators need to go back and understand the implications for their business case,” Cr Capp said.
The City of Melbourne has been tagging abandoned oBikes as dumped rubbish. (ABC News: James Oaten)
“But certainly the regulations that have been put in place have been very focused on the safety of cyclists and the safety of people moving around the city.”
Cr Capp said other operators had flagged interest in launching in Melbourne and the council welcomed the idea, as it provided people with more options to get around.
“We’ve lot a lot from the experience with oBike,” she said.
In a statement, the Victorian Government said it welcomed bike sharing schemes but operators needed to comply with regulations.
“Whether oBikes remains in Melbourne is a matter for the company,” the Government said.
But senior minister Martin Foley, the member for Albert Park in inner Melbourne, appeared happy with the company’s decision.
“Leaving town after their botched roll out. A good idea falls to poor management. They won’t be missed,” he tweeted.
The EPA’s CEO, Nial Finegan, said the crackdown was caused by oBike’s “inability to provide EPA with the confidence that it could, or would, manage this issue in the absence of the statutory notices”.
“The authorities are responding to a disruptive technology that has become a nuisance, an eyesore and a hazard to people’s safety,” he said.
In October last year, oBike signed a formal agreement with the Melbourne, Yarra and Port Phillip councils to improve its safety and amenity, but at the time admitted it could not guarantee bikes could always be parked properly.
City of Melbourne tweet: We’re working closely with them to remove the remaining oBikes.We recommend people stop using @AustraliaObike