Today the Australian newspaper reported that the Victorian Government will give out 200 free bicycle helmets to try and improve patronage for Melbourne’s ailing Bike Share scheme, which was launched in 2010.
Melbourne’s admirable bike hire scheme has struggled because laws require cyclists to wear helmets whenever they ride a bicycle in the State of Victoria. No helmets are provided with the hire bikes, which potentially renders patrons liable to prosecution if they hire a bike.
Last December, I went to Adelaide in South Australia and trialled that city’s bicycle hire scheme which is operated by Bicycle South Australia and sponsored by the City of Adelaide council.
In Adelaide, bicycles and helmets are provided free. A hirer simply surrenders a driver’s licence and can then use the bicycle for the entire day. The bicycles are issued from a large network of community centres and City of Adelaide buildings that are dotted around the ‘city of churches’.
The scheme is simple and very effective.
According to the BikeSA website, the scheme has been operating since 2005. During my ride around Adelaide, I saw a number of other riders with their distinctive ‘City Bike’ bicycles also making use of this facility.
Minister for Transport in Victoria, Terry Mulder, has apparently taken inspiration for his latest decision from the experience in Brisbane, Queensland. Mulder told the Australian that “the bikes that have free helmets attached to them in Brisbane had an uptake of three times greater than those that didn’t”.
Correcting this glaring oversight in the Melbourne scheme is a good move, but Moulder told Jon Faine on 3LO 774 this morning that the helmets won’t be attached to the bikes, nor will they be issued from a dispensing machine or manned facility. This surely leaves them prone to theft?
Much discussion was made of the Brisbane scheme on the radio this morning, but no-one mentioned the Adelaide scheme which seems much more sensible and far easier to implement. Theft of helmets is unlikely to be a concern when they are handed-out by people. Patronage would also rise if bikes could be hired for free.
The Melbourne scheme has cost the State Government $5 million so far. Costs would rise more (and patronage fall) if the helmets are stolen. Additionally, I am unsure what happens when it rains, as the helmets would become wet when the bicycles are housed in their unprotected frames on the footpath.
I wish this scheme every success, but it seems to me that we need to look west to see a good scheme in operation, not north.