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Bike Sharing Has A Short Life-Cycle In 'Unwelcoming' Sydney

More global cities are embracing the ever-growing trend of share bikes, so how come Sydney won't?

Share bikes became the laughing stock of Sydney transport over the last couple of years, after viral social media posts showed bikes dumped in rivers, left discarded on roads and lodged in trees.

It prompted several companies to pull their business from Australia and councils began handing out fines for illegal dumping.

But just a few months ago, U.S. share-bike company Lime became the latest organisation to attempt to re-introduce the concept in Sydney, launching their e-bikes in November.

Lime's Australia Community Affairs Manager, William Peters said the decision to expand into Sydney, despite the bad rep of bikes in the city, was because of the city's noticeable need for alternative transport.

"We have approached transport in a completely different way," Peters said, when asked about their decision to launch despite many others pulling out.

"Electric bikes are something that this market hadn’t seen before," Peters told 10 daily.

He said establishing a 24/7 service meant the 60-strong Sydney team could get to reports of broken or discarded bikes within half an hour to an hour, fixing an issue that had plagued earlier share bike models.

"Nobody likes when you're walking down the street and see clutter," he said.

"98 percent of people do the right thing and it’s the two percent that doesn't".

Discarded bike at Bondi Beach. Image: Getty Images

But Director of the Centre for Business and Social Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney,  Emmanuel Josserand, believes the crux of the problem lies in Sydney being "not that welcoming" to cyclists.

"Sydney is not necessarily super easy to navigate," Josserand told 10 daily.

"And there's not a strong culture of going to work on a bike," he said.

READ MORE: Australia, You Now Have Electric Scooter-Sharing

READ MORE: You're About To See A Lot Fewer Share Bikes Around For Good Reason

Josserand said in other cities, like Amsterdam, many locals used bikes regularly before organisations like Lime or O-Bike even existed.

"In some other cases it has changed the city landscape; Paris is certainly an example of that".

Electric scooters have taken off in European cities including Paris. Image: Chesnot/Getty Images)

According to Josserand, some Parisians cycled prior to the introduction of docking systems, but it wasn't until after their launch that bikes began being used regularly.

And now, he says, share bikes and even scooters, are everywhere.

But unlike Sydney, Paris is much more compact and there are policies to limit cars in the CBD. It also has a very good metro system, so as a city it's easier  for companies to roll out scooter options.

"If you don't bring the bike back [in Paris] you are responsible and fined, and that creates a discipline that was a bit lacking in Sydney," Josserand said.

In Sydney however, dock less systems still exist, this means complaints are still received about bikes being parked or left incorrectly.

Josserand said the long distances people travel in Sydney also makes it much more difficult for e-bikes to take-off successfully.

"For people who live in the western suburbs for example and have to drive at least 40 minutes to get to work-- that's a very long distance for cycling".

Josserand believes electric scooters, which have been launched successfully in European cities, are more versatile and could provide a good solution.

They really fill a gap connecting points that are not as easy to reach by public transport, that could make more sense in Sydney.

Peters said Lime was hoping to expand its scooter initiative to Sydney, after launching trials in Melbourne and Brisbane -- which saw more than half a million rides.

Scooter Sharing Trial Kicks Off

He said medium trip times currently stand at about eight minutes, which suggests -- similar to Josserand's research -- that people capitalise on using the bikes for the last leg of their journey.

And with the launch of new campaigns to promote bike riding around, stakeholders are hoping bike-hopping trends will have a longer life-cycle in Sydney.

One strategy from Sydney City Council to make the city more bike friendly, is offering free tune-ups for cyclists.

Dozens of separated cycleways are also set to be built across the inner city under plans to address the peak hour jostle between motorists and cyclists.

Cycling Strategy Manager Fiona Campbell told 10 daily their campaigns are hoping to both increase cycling and improve behaviour around riding.

"Sydney is well behind other cycling cities around the world," she said, adding that currently transport systems are clogged up by short-trip users.

Featured Image: Getty Images

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au