Silly Cycle

By March 18, 2011 July 16th, 2015 5 Comments
Does my ass look big?

Does my ass look big? Image of an incorrectly fitted helmet, courtesy of

A few articles on Brisbane’s public bike hire scheme, CityCycle, have appeared in The Brisbane Times. The timing coincides with the Queensland Government’s Bicycle Queensland Bike Week. CityCycle is a public bike hire scheme run by JCDecaux and the Brisbane City Council. Apart from the colour, they are identical to the Parisian Vélib system.

In the first article, “CityCycle Starts With A Whimper”, the usage figures to date have been revealed. And they’re not good by any measure.

After six months in operation (800 bikes in the system currently):

  • 250 trips per day on average
  • 1,975 annual subscribers
  • Less than a third of the 1,013 3-month subscribers have renewed

To put this into perspective, 4 months earlier  The Brisbane Institute wrote an article on CityCycle’s use. It showed:

  • 225 trips per day
  • 2,516 subscriptions (of these, 478 were daily which shouldn’t really count as they’re not ‘current’)
  • 600 bikes in operation at 60 stations.

There are a few reasons why CityCycle is not doing well:

  • Station locations (feuding between State & Local Governments in key locations)
  • Pricing Structure (deliberately priced to discourage casual use interestingly, unlike Melbourne)
  • Rubbish road environment with parked cars and speeding motorists in the CBD
  • Mandatory helmet laws

Of course, nobody will officially mention the ‘H-word’ as being an issue as they refuse to look at the facts. Every other excuse is used as a reason for the slow uptake, including:

  • Hot weather (they blame cold weather in Melbourne!)
  • Floods (a convenient scapegoat – also used to justify spending cuts on bikeways)

However a second article reveals that someone is willing to mention the ‘H-word’, the CEO of JCDecaux Australia, Mr Steve O’Connor:

“Mr O’Connor said there was “no doubt” the mandatory use of helmets constrained the use of the scheme.

However, he said the scheme was not primarily designed for tourists, but rather for commuters who would be more likely to have their own helmets.”

Vélib is not designed for tourists either…

Clearly were are not doing something right here in Australia with our public bike hire schemes. The most obvious difference between our systems and those of Dublin, for example, is the requirement for an adult to wear a bicycle helmet when riding a bicycle (on a footpath, bikepath, road or ‘road related area’ – essentially everywhere…) – despite pedicab passengers being exempt. Residents of Brisbane know they will be stopped by the police so few use the bikes without a helmet.

Message to Melbourne – Mike Rubbo

The only way this will change is if we write to Government asking for an exemption. Use our letter templates and ask for an helmet exemption for bike share bikes. Alternatively, ask for a trial exemption.

A trial exemption would allow the effects of the relaxed law to be studied. The bike share bikes are the perfect vehicle for this: they are identifiable, limited to a small central area and are only allowed to be ridden by adults. Feel free to edit the letter and send your own thoughts on the matter to Government.

Bike share bikes are too important for cycling to be allowed to fail – it will give the impression that nobody is interested in public cycling expenditure. That will bad for all of us, even those of us who will never cycle.


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