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Are yellow oBikes taking over our footpaths?

The Age, 10 July 2017
By now you’ve probably seen the yellow bikes dotted across Melbourne’s landscape – maybe you’ve even tripped over one. Melbourne’s new bike sharing system oBike is certainly getting some mileage, with pushies popping up on random street corners and flooding bike racks from Richmond to the CBD.

But the Singaporean newcomers haven’t won over everyone.

Heralded as a high-tech rival to the city’s blue bikes, many Melburnians say the dockless yellow bikes have become a tripping hazard, as they clog footpaths and stand abandoned on busy footpaths.

Commuter cyclists say they’ve also been left with nowhere to park their own bikes.

The yellow bikes have raised curly questions for Melbourne City Council about regulating start-ups such as oBike that don’t require a permit to operate.

“I think in a young, spirited and entrepreneurial way they were quite naive about getting permission,” Councillor Nicholas Frances Gilley said. “But there are currently no rules to say they shouldn’t have just gone on with it.”

Melbourne City Council has since met with oBike several times and established a team within council to work with them.

The bikes are definitely being used. Where they end up is the problem. Because oBike is a stationless system, users can leave the bikes anywhere, although they are encouraged to leave them in public bike parking areas.

An oBike spokeswoman said the company was working with councils to ensure bikes were left in suitable areas and did not take up bicycle racks.

“oBike has a team that will redeploy bicycles that have been parked inappropriately,” she said. “We will also continue to work together with our users to create more awareness and to educate them on parking our bicycles.”

Users are rewarded with credits or punished with higher rental rates depending on how well they use the system.

Since oBike’s June 15 launch, bicycles have been placed in the CBD, South Yarra, St Kilda Road, Richmond, Carlton and Fitzroy.

The company said they had received a lot of positive feedback and constant suggestions from Melburnians on how to improve the service.

One Age reader and oBike user said the bikes were “great” while another man called them a “clog on the [bike] racks”.

Richmond’s community Facebook page has been flooded with mixed reviews, with locals describing fallen bikes blocking footpaths as “an accident waiting to happen”.

Others fear oBike, a private company, will profit from a monopoly on public infrastructure such as bike racks.

“As a regular bike commuter around Richmond I am now finding it hard to safely lock my bike in all the usual spots,” wrote one woman on Facebook.

Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said multiple public bike options would make Melbourne a more liveable city.