Adventures of a CityCycle Tragic

So that is why there were no bikes at my Station!

With much fan fair and Can-Do Campbell Newman, CityCycle (Brisbane’s bike hire service) finally went live on 1st of October.

Those who know me are unfortunately all too aware of how “into” the idea of CityCycle I am. As each announcement brought it closer (all be it a year behind schedule) my excitement grew. So follow my journey from registration to riding…

On the 1st of September I logged into the webpage to register and was thrilled to get (what I thought was rare) a <1000 membership number. As each day ticked by, I eagerly awaited the release of the free helmets supplied by the Brisbane City Council. I even went along to “open days” at my local parks to get acquainted with the bikes. I was truly a CCT (CityCycle Tragic).

Such mellow hues.

Two weeks to go and helmets were rolled out at libraries. 2000 free helmets of which 500 would go to public users.  I formulated a plan to ensure (hopefully) that I would get my helmet. Rather than fight the swarming hordes lining up at the Brisbane Square Library on Day One of  release, I would craftily go to my local library (New Farm) straight after work on the Tuesday, as they are closed Monday. I just had to hope that all the people who missed out at the BSL wouldn’t hightail it to New Farm and nab all the helmets before I could get there.

Tuesday rolled around. I left work super early, rocking up shortly before 5pm, card in hand to collect. Would I be in time? I see behind the counter a helmet on a box – YES ONE LEFT!

Turned out I was the first person who had come in for a helmet. #embarrassedpanda

#78 still looks exactly the same

Now, with bright yellow helmet in hand (well actually in bright yellow backsling) all I had to do was wait for the 1st of October, and hope that my closest Station (#78) would be finished in time – the day before it wasn’t looking good, but no worry, there were two that looked ready to go (sans bikes) on James Street (#59 & #77). On the 30th of September I call to confirm that my stations on James St would be live from 5am. Yes!

Attempt 1:
5.05am I am up!
5.15am I am at James Street looking for bikes. I am feeling remarkably lazy for someone about to go cycling, so I walk down the incline to #59 just past the Palace. No bikes. I walk back up James St to #77. No bikes.  I call the CityCycle helpdesk – Message Service. #unamusedpanda
7.30am I leave for work, still no bikes at #59 & #77. 10.30am Station #77 officially goes live on their webpage – but no bikes. 2.30pm Station #77 has bikes!

¿dónde están las bicicletas?

Even though I had no luck with Attempt #1 to ride I am unperturbed by this setback. I am excited to get home, change and use CityCycle to get to a birthday dinner at Hill End before a catch up at Southbank. According to the foldout map, Station #105 is just across the road from the restaurant. With more and more stations going live throughout the day, and CityCycle assuring us that there would be 500 bikes on the road I am confident, CityCycle Tragic that I am, that it will be ready.

Attempt 2:
I wrap gift in basket friendly manner. I check webpage to make sure Station #105 is live. Station is White (planned, in construction, or built CityCycle station) , not Red (Open and operating CityCycle station). I call CityCycle. No, not active – not actually built yet.

Ooookaaaaay.

No, I can work with this. I will DRIVE to Hill End, but take my helmet with me so I can drive to West End Markets (Station #112) and then cycle to one of the many Stations (#94, #95, #97, #100) in and around Southbank.

Attempt 3:
After a fantastic dinner, I ask my friend who lives across the road of the West End Markets if there were many bikes there. After seeing the look on her, I ask if it is actually built. Nope. No matter! The CityCycle Tragic knows there is a way around this! I will drive to another Station, then cycle to Southbank! I farewell my friends who are going to catch the bus to Southbank, but not me, I have my helmet and my CityCycle Card! Before I jump in the car, I look up the site again, and see that Stations, #94, #95, #97 and #100 are White (inactive). I couldn’t believe that one of the busiest parts of Brisbane wasn’t live.  In the end I just drove there.

Attempt 4:
It is now Day 2 of CityCycle and I still haven’t ridden one of the bloody things. I plan to jump on at #77 (working station on James St) and cycle to Merthyr Village (Station #82) to do some light shopping. Learning from last night’s errors I check the webpage.  White. Really!?!?! Merthyr isn’t operating?
I have decided that this is a conspiracy, but that I will NOT be defeated. I know from my introduction to the bikes that they have a lock – so I will ride to Merthyr, lock it manually, ride it back – and if I need to, I can check it in at a live Station I have found around half way.
I stroll to #77. Decide on my bike, wipe off the rain with my shirt (making mental note that I need to carry a teeny towel) and stride up to swipe my card.
I swipe.
I swipe again.
I place it up against the yellow section of the machine.
Nothing.
Screen is black.
I call CityCycle.
After much discussion, it is decided that the monitor must be broken. They will get someone to fix it.

I will prevail!  I walk home. Find a live Station (#65) that will be easy to park at and also let me have a nice ride, jump in the car and drive off into Teneriffe. It should be noted that I could have walked to Merthyr by now.

Attempt 5.
I arrive at Station #55.
I swipe.
I swipe again.
I place card up against reader.
I put ear to side of machine to hear the whirling of a computer fan or like.
I swipe in slow motion.
Nothing.
Screen is black.
I call CityCycle. This one must be down too – they will send a technician. I ask for the location of another Station and the lovely Sasha who has been dealing with me all morning suggests #70 – Macquarie Street as it is ABSOLUTELY working – there has been hiring and returns.

Attempt 6:
I jump in my car, find a park near the  Station #70, grab my helmet and card, check my enthusiasm is still intact and go!
Things are looking up – as I can see, from a distance, that the screen is on! There is a slight skip in my step as I stride to the racks and pick my bike.
I swipe.
I swipe again.
I place my card up against the reader.
I say a little prayer to the St Cyclus, the Patron Saint of Cyclists.
I swipe in slow motion.
The welcome screen remains welcoming.

I laughingly call CityCycle again. Poor Sasha, but as there were less than 600 members last time I saw a figure (Thursday) I figure they have a fair bit of free time at the Call Centre.

Step by step we go through the motions.

Conclusion? Card must be faulty. She will put in a request and get one printed on Monday. #sadpanda For those of you who have seen the log in screen, there is a code for casual users, I ask if I can have one of them as I have a picnic in the Botanical Gardens on Sunday. Solution? She will get me a new card printed now, and as she knows I live one street over from their office, she will buzz me in and give it to me personally. GO SASHA!

I still haven’t ridden a bike, but at last we, hopefully, have a solution. I pick up my new card en route to the Gold Coast, with the intention of riding when I get home.

Attempt 7:
It is 4.30pm and the rain has finally stopped. I have checked the webpage again, and Merthyr (#82) is now Red! It is ON! I walk down to #77. I can see the screen working!
I pick a bike (the same one I picked this morning).
I swipe.
OMG IT WORKS!
I agree to terms and conditions and go grab my bike.
It doesn’t move.
I try again.
Still locked.
I try the trick a friend told me – push it forward then pull it back – nothing.
Hi CityCycle – Can you please help me?
We pick another bike (just in case) and I swipe, grab the bike and it releases. That mechanism might be stuck (read “we will send our poor technician out to check it”)
I FINALLY HAVE A BIKE!

Now as I haven’t ridden in some 10 years (exercise bikes while watching TV don’t count it seems) I have picked a nice, not too hilly, non-busy, indirect route to Merthyr Village.

I AM RIDING!
At last I am finally MAXTREMEPT!
It starts to rain lightly.
It starts to rain not so lightly (but the CityCycle Tragic does not turn back!).
I reach the first hill.
I go to change gears.
They don’t. 2nd gear clicks and jolts, and 1st just spins. This is going to be an interesting ride. I try to change gears again (you do this by rotating the grip on the right hand). Nope. Third gear it is. The last hill leaves me remembering just how terribly unused to cycling I am, but I am at Merthyr Village and I lock my bike in first try.

After buying the one item I went through all of this for, I have a 5 min sit down and am pleased to see that the rain has stopped. I head back to Station #82.

Station #82: All Bike - No Action.

Attempt 8:
I swipe.
I swipe again.
Screen IS working.
I swipe in slow motion.
I place card up against reader.
I have an audience.
Another rider comes up.
He swipes.
He swipes again.
He swipes in slow motion (HA! Not just me).
He tells me that he couldn’t get a bike here earlier either so had to walk to the CityCat stop at New Farm Park.
Laughing, I hit redial.
“Hi CityCycle, it’s Tae again!”
I inform them that the reader is broken – they will send a technician out.

I stroll to Station #84 on advice of fellow rider, walking past the non-operational #83.

Attempt 9:
I twitterwalk past the shrubbery to see that the CityCat has just unloaded and there is a crowd of people looking at the CityCycles at #84, reading the flyers and playing with the monitor.
No pressure…
I pick a bike and adjust the seat and BOOM. I am bombarded with questions. I answer honestly but positively.
I go to swipe but can’t get to the machine as a group of 7 people have more questions for me.
I go to swipe, hoping that Saint Cyclus is watching over me.
I have cycle!
I do the front back trick and get my bike out.
PHEW!

Farewelling my audience I ride off along the riverfront – as I have decided that rather than ride back along the roads I will head along the RiverWalk to the Teneriffe CityCat Terminal then scoot up Commercial Road avoiding any and every hill I can. Feeling lucky, I go to change gears. Flawless.

It has taken 9 tries, but I am finally riding, really riding, without a problem. Ringing my bell as I go. Hearing people say “CityCycle” as I woosh past. It starts to get dark and I see that my lights are on as I catch my yellow helmeted reflection in the glass of the Powerhouse. I have a big smile on my face. THIS is what it is all about. Cycling instead of driving or catching the bus all while enjoying the quality of life in the RiverCity.

Pluses:
When it works, it is remarkably simple to nab a bike.
Great customer service!
Sturdy but not too heavy.
Automatic lights.
Very cheap on a yearly subscription.

Minuses:
Some stations are designed poorly – quite a distance from machine to last bikes (Station #84 at New Farm Park CityCat Terminal).
Their webpage http://www.citycycle.com.au/ is terrible.
Their iPhone/iPod only works on OSX 4+ so older models can’t use it.
So many teething problems.
As yet not casual user option (I could be wrong there).

There is a LOT more White than Red.

Will it work? I really hope it does. As I write this, Station #7o on Macquarie St that was working this morning, is currently off line, so they are still undergoing a large number of technical difficulties.

I will say though, that last one good ride made up for those misfired attempts. I can’t wait to use it tomorrow! (I am really hoping I don’t have any more problems) I have never ridden along the RiverWalk in the City (though I am not looking forward to riding up Malt St – I foresee pushing a bike uphill in my future).  I must admit that their customer service was excellent – being in an early adopter has its perks as there was never any waiting to get to speak to someone.

What CityCycle needs now are 500 CityCycle Tragics, who tell all their friends to signup and to take any hiccups with a grain of salt (which they can carry around in their bright yellow backslings with their sense of humour).

It is pretty good now (when it all works), but can you imagine when all the stations are live?  It will be so convenient. Perfect for most of the year and just what this city needs.

#twopandas (but I think it will settle into a solid #threepandas)

UPDATE – Day 3 of CityCycle (October 3rd). Still only 1 (#77) of 3 stations within close walking distance is operational. Macquarie St (#70) is still experiencing technical difficulties. Overnight, the bikes weren’t relocated – CityCat New Farm (#84) still only has 2 available bikes on it. I can’t tell if Merthyr (#82) is working, but there are the same number of free spaces as yesterday (5). Lucky it is raining right now and people aren’t riding.

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About howmanypandas

If you can do it I review it! View all posts by howmanypandas

18 responses to “Adventures of a CityCycle Tragic

  • Mark

    It’s really awesome to know that at least someone was non-lazy where I was. I really like this idea, but still hold some grudges from the start of the go cards.

    Great to hear that you got it to work in the end 🙂

    This might just inspire me to carry around my helmet in my backpack. Now I just need to convince myself the cost is worth it.

    • howmanypandas

      A friend of mine and I were chatting out it on Friday night (he and his girlfriend had zero issues using the service in the CBD other than the fact they had to drop their bikes at the Goodwill Bridge and walk across and back up to Southbank as there were no live stations) and we worked out that if you use it instead of one bus trip every two weeks, you pretty much break even. That is cheap imho.
      PS: Our maths might have been off as it was over cocktails.

  • RowanBarber

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    I own two & a half bikes – a road bike, a mountain bike & a uni-cycle. I live in hope that the Lord Mayor will build some continuity into the fragmented bikeway network.

    However, I fear that the Lord Mayor has failed to take into consideration the financial failure of the Clem7 and repeated warnings from the Queensland Treasury Corporation that building the Northern Link Road Tunnel might limit the Brisbane City Council’s “ability to fund other capital expenditure and could result in deferral of projects”.

    regards,

    Rowan of Normanby

    • howmanypandas

      Wouldn’t there be contractual obligations in place given that this is an outsourced service? I will follow this up on Monday.

      • RowanBarber

        Dear Mr HowmanyPandas,

        While all the risk of the NSBT (aka the Clem7) was held by the contractor in a public/private partnership,

        and all the risk for the Airport Link was carried by the Qld State Government,

        All the risk for the Northern Link rests with the Council (& thus the ratepayers).

        The Feds are chipping in half a billion. the shortfall is being borrowed from the Qld State Treasury corp. as a commercial loan (to be paid back with interest).

        regards,

        Ro

      • RowanBarber

        sorry.

        Correction:

        Dear Ms HowManyPandas,….

  • Owen

    No integration with GoCard makes this entire system useless to me.

  • Bill

    Great read and review Tea of the first couple of days. Hopefully it’s all teething issues and you happen to be one of the new public, quality control officers testing out the CityCycle system for JCD.

    I’ll make sure there is a link on the CityCycleBrisbane.com to this to help others know what is going on at the moment. Here is the post http://wp.me/pZQWb-5c

  • Adrian Lodders

    Hey, If you have an issues with the iPhone app on older phones, I have made a web app that you can goto with your phones browser. The address is http://CityCycle.Tel/

    If you have an iPhone, open the Google Maps App and search for http://jog.by/citycycle – it’ll show you all stations & how many bikes are available. If you have an Android, you just click on the link on the CityCycle.Tel page.

  • RowanBarber

    I wrote the following in November 2009:

    Now the car addicts of Brisbane were dependent on cars.
    The cyclists of Brisbane clung to their handle bars.
    The roads were quite wide; there was plenty of room.
    So you think the cyclists & car drivers would be happy to zoom.
    But those in their cars, would yell out in vain,
    “Hey you, you cyclists, get out of our lane.”

    With the soot in the air, cyclists would cough and they’d snort,
    For some space on the road a fight would be fought.
    And as for pedestrians who resorted to walking,
    the car addicts zipped past them without even baulking.

    When the car addict’s children were dropped off at school,
    those who rode bikes or walked were considered un-cool,
    Yet they lined up for blocks in the school traffic jams,
    you’d think it would be better if they all caught a tram

    When the car addicts of Brisbane drove their cars to the coasts,
    the traffic was grid locked, while the trains carried ghosts,
    they never considered the gases emitted.
    Along side the roads was the stuff that they littered.
    They commuted to work, they parked there all day,
    and didn’t think twice of the price that they paid.

    Then one day, it seems, while the car addicts
    were static, just static grid locked in the traffic,
    sitting there, wishing the congestion would ease,
    up popped a stranger who was aiming to please.

    “My friends, ” he announced in a voice almost human,
    “I want to be Lord Mayor ‘can-do’ Campbell Newman”.
    “I’ve heard of your traffic; and I have a suggestion
    I can fix that; I am the ‘can-do’ of congestion.

    I’ve come here to help you; I’ve seen your dismay,
    My tolls will low, and I’ll show the way,
    and my public private partnership will be user-pay.”

    Then quickly, the Lord Mayor ‘can-do’ Campbell Newman,
    Proposed a truly remarkable solution.
    Then he said, “You want to drive freely from A to B?
    I’ll build you a tunnel for a billion dollars or three.
    You know you can trust me, I am a man of my word,
    Just keep me in office and call me “my Lord”

    They elected him Mayor with a nod and a wink.
    The Coro Drive bus lanes disappeared in a blink
    He dug North-South bypass, he built Hale Street Link .

    When the car addicts drove he would charge them a toll!
    They actually paid to go down through his hole!
    Then as time went by more cars filled the tunnel,
    they closed surface roads so the traffic would funnel.
    then grid lock returned, and traffic it queued.
    the Emperor in new clothes now appeared to be nude!”

    “Good grief!” groaned the ones who had been gridlocked before.
    “We’re no better off, perhaps worse off, we’re not sure.
    We are stuck on a freeway in a tunnel they all frowned,
    We just took the same problem and moved it underground

    Then up stepped Can-do with a nudge and a wink, and he said,
    “Things are not quite as bad as you think.
    We’ll just make them wider and longer and deeper”.
    Their addiction to cars was not going to get cheaper.

    So they dug more tunnels and added more lanes
    and then had to build wider, longer, deeper storm drains
    “we need more bridges & tunnels, ” said Can-do.
    When you build a new sewer people don’t do more poo,
    but when you make the roads wider more people will drive,
    Like swarms of angry bees when you mess with their hive.

    • RowanBarber

      and I just wrote an epilogue:

      Then quickly, Sly Can-do, he had a new dream,
      Turn car addicts to cyclists with the CityCycle Scheme
      Then, in their suits and their ties, they all pedalled about.
      And they rang on their bells and they let out a shout,
      It was cool, it was easy! They liked seeing the sights.
      The car addicts now, were addicted to bikes.

  • Matt

    Great article Tae and what a shame on rollout weekend you had so many dramas!

    I know one is city and one State, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Go-Card system could be linked to CityCycle for casual users. I think making it a subscription option, along with compulsory helmet use just adds too many elements for the casual user.

    If I could swipe my Go-Card, grab a bike then swipe it back in when I dropped it off, I think it would have a much greater take-up rate.

    I hope it does take off though, especially with the investment taken.

  • Two Weeks into CityCycle – Just how are we going? « Howmanypandas

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