Happy Anniversary CityCycle

It has been one month since CityCycle commenced its roll out.

So how has it been traveling? If you read the local papers or online news sites, it is doomed to fail, taking the council’s money with it. But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Really.

There has been much comparison to the failure of Melbourne’s bike hire scheme, and how they are now doing vending machines to provide helmets for riders. In my humble opinion, that isn’t the issue. Melbourne has less stations and it was also launched in Winter. Was someone not having a helmet the deal breaker on riding? Personally, I don’t think so.

CityCycle is designed to be an alternative to other forms of transport for commuters. Commuters know they are commuting. My helmet (in its yellow CityCycle bag) goes with me if I think I will use the scheme – just like my GoCard goes with me – there is a difference in size I must admit. On the very odd occasion that you are out and spontaneously wish you could ride a CityCycle from Roma Street to Fortitude Valley, yes it is a shame you can’t hit the vending machine for a helmet, swipe a credit card, and ride. But really, that is not the majority, and not what it was intended for – if this was me, I would just jump on a bus. CityCycle isn’t designed to replace other forms of transport, it compliments it.

Much has also been made of the $11 a day cost, comparing it to bus fares. I paid my $60 upfront, that is what, 17-18 cents a day. Six days in twelve months is all you would have to use it to break even (give or take) on the daily rate. The other way of looking at it is this – a year’s membership approximately equates to one zone trip on your GoCard every two weeks. I have used CityCycle 30+ times in the past month and that would have been much more had it not been for rain and the 10pm lock out. I also did nine hours more exercise last month than I would have otherwise, not including the walking to and from the stations.

It hasn’t all been puppies and chocolate… There are some problems.

CityCycle’s biggest problem is its own poor communication.

Its webpage is atrocious. Unnecessary clicks, hard to find information, woeful design etc. Their app is better, but has some problems. You really have to spend a bit of time to set it up with your stations to get the benefit of it, and live isn’t really live or always correct.

The Call Centre is either brilliant or hopeless. Some staff know what is going on, most don’t. Give them with a problem outside of “how do I register?” or “how do I use my card to hire a bike?” and they are stumped. Some of their staff are just downright hopeless at customer service. You can read more about this here.

Another problem are stations that look live, aren’t. An Opening Soon sign on the machine would be great – as the little one on the racks are also on live stations – so how can you tell, especially if someone has already racked a bike? Commercial Rd / Skyring Tce (Teneriffe CityCat, Cross River Ferry, Bus Hub) Station 66 is a great case in point – there were 9 bikes there recently, yet it is a closed station. I would love to know what happened to those people who left bikes there.

The biggest issue in my area, New Farm/Teneriffe/Merthyr, is lack of bikes or lack of racks – which probably contributed to the Station 66 problem. This morning (Sunday) at 8am I rode to Merthyr – my app said 2 racks available but figured I might jag one or at worst, rack at New Farm Park. Knowing the problem in my area, I counted how many racks were available along Macquarie St and Merthyr Rd – seven. Just seven free racks over four stations. Granted I was on the main drag and didn’t check New Farm CityCat or the Powerhouse, but lack of racks is a big issue. Because not all the stations are live yet, there are limited options to rack in popular areas. When I got to Merthyr Village this morning I got the last space, though the machine and my app still said there were two. Thankfully the lack of bikes issue has settled down, and I haven’t gone past a live empty station in the last week.

The Bikes:
Predominantly very good. I have had three dodgy bikes. Two with gear issues, one with a broken seat lever. 3 from 30 is a 10% fail rate, though only one was not ridable.
I love the basket – no hot and sweaty backpack! Fits my laptop perfectly and handles a baguette with some shopping no issues.
The lights come on automatically.
Seats are nice and wide.
Brakes are OK – not super, but as you aren’t going that fast, it isn’t much of an issue.
People who say the bikes look sissy just don’t get that it is for comfort and stability and not sleek racing in lycra. I have seen more guys on CityCycles than girls – so I don’t think any guy who is comfortable with their sexuality have a problem with the bikes.

Just one new station in the past two weeks.


The Stations:
One station at least, has real issues. Merthyr crashes itself and resets regularly. Some bikes are stuck. That is you can see the bike, but the rack number doesn’t come up as an option.
Station updates (and the app + webpage) aren’t really live. I have been to a station that had closed for service, yet was still listed as open (red) on the webpage. There is also a lag to updating numbers of bikes and racks.
Some stations are poorly designed with racks quite a distance from the machine. Sucks when you pick that bike, go to release it and it doesn’t. Walk back, repeat a few times till the machine resets.
The roll out of stations makes glaciers look like F1 cars. After two weeks, five more stations went live (including the reopening of a broken station). In the following two weeks, only one more.
Unless I can’t count, we still don’t have 50 stations open – given their current lag in opening stations, I doubt that they can do the rest by the end of the year – let alone another 100 in the new 14 months.
Stations in key areas are still not open – Southbank and the Northern end of The Valley are cases in point.

The Service:
When it works, it works brilliantly.
When it doesn’t, often staff don’t know how to solve the problem, or they don’t have the resources to do so. Being told that they don’t have the staff to move bikes when stations get full regularly isn’t what you want to hear. Being told they don’t have the staff to move bikes on the weekend is even worse.
The last official comment I can find states that subscriptions were increasing at around 60 a day. There was a little over 1000 by the end of the first weekend, so that would put membership at around 1,800 so far if registrations remained constant.  I was told today by a fellow CityCycler that there were just under 2,000.
The service does work. I came across bike #00001 on Saturday morning. I took her for three rides before she disappeared from Merthyr this morning. I had just picked a new bike and lo and behold a girl rides up to do her shopping on #00001. Someone had ridden it to another station and she had picked it up taking it on yet another journey. One bike had taken three people off the bus or out of their car in just the space of a few hours.

Riding in the early morning sun along the boardwalk at Teneriffe (frequently).
Having a chat with an old man about how much he loves CityCycle as we ran into eachother in a cafe, both with our CityCycle bags and helmets.
Hearing friends and acquaintances explain excitedly that their stations were getting closer to opening.
Seeing the same faces on the bikes… sometimes I am reminded of the Prius Smug episode in Southpark… we do look pretty pleased with ourselves.
Riding to meet friends for dinner, parties, coffee and picnics and not once having to wait for a bus or circle the block over and over for a park.
Seeing that I can ride to BIFF.
Getting fitter.

Low Lights:
Poor Customer Service at the Call Centre.
Almost getting taken out by a silver Audi that swerved in front of me, blocking the bike lane, to reverse park.
Almost riding into a silver BMW that braked through a stop sign into the bike lane at a T intersection.
Almost falling off my CityCycle when I was seeing if you could ride the bike into the rack.
Planning a night out, only to find out that there were still no stations live within 500m of the venue – I just ended up walking.

A month in, we are still at #twopandas though on some brilliant mornings it is a 5 star start to my day. We have a long way to go yet.

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14 responses to “Happy Anniversary CityCycle

  • Tweets that mention Happy Anniversary CityCycle « Howmanypandas -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Taezar, howmanypandas. howmanypandas said: Happy Anniversary CityCycle – My thoughts and review of its first month. http://bit.ly/9cFwX3 #citycycle /cc @brisbanecityqld […]

  • Stephen

    Great review. Only thing is – I’ll never find out about all the positives and negatives you mention because of the helmet thing (and that is from a cyclist). If I have my helmet with me – I’ll have my bike too.

    If I didn’t have to wear/carry a helmet I’d give it a go.

    • howmanypandas

      Hi Stephen. Imagine riding to work – but then wanting to go somewhere close at lunch… well you can leave your bike locked up and just jump on a citycycle. I live in very inner-city Brisbane – so for me it isn’t the deal breaker… There are stations all around me and where I want to go – it isn’t like I have had to commute to use it – I use it to commute.
      Does that make sense?

      • Stephen

        That does make sense HMP. Maybe that will be the way I go, but for the moment wherever I need to go there are no stations, like at Roma St Parklands or Boundary St West End. Maybe one day.

  • Evan Davis

    My comments are purely from the perspective of a day tripper or tourist.

    I can see how the CityCycle scheme would work well for locals and I wish the same scheme was available on the Gold Coast.

    However the tourist (who almost certainly has not heard of the scheme) would find themselves confused and disappointed.

    I was in Brisbane on Friday. I knew in advance that I would need to register first in order, but decided to check it out as if I’d just stumbled across these bikes on the side of the road.

    I arrived at the station in George St (I think it was the corner of Ann St). I was greeted with an impressive range of new bikes. The rack was full. There was a large advertisement explaining how the system worked.

    I also saw the payment box which looked more like a car parking meter (it wasn’t very well marked). It asked for my card or account code.

    If I was Tommy Tourist wanting to go for a ride, at this point I’d be disappointed in that a.) I need to find an internet cafe and register for the service and b.) I need to obtain a helmet somehow.

    To make it more accessible to spontaneous use by tourists, I’d suggest allowing the use of a credit card at the payment box. If I don’t return the bike, my card can get charged the amount I would agree to at the start of the transaction.

    As for the helmets, perhaps a locker box near each station would be appropriate. Going outside the square a little, build them into the footpath… so you reach into them if you need one (activated upon payment or access code) and unobtrusive to others walking past (or even stepping on them)

    Tourists love these sort of different activities when they are in a new city. The bikes are there, the tourists seemingly can’t use them or at least Council isn’t encouraging tourists to use them.

  • Primal Tuna

    “Melbourne has less stations and it was also launched in Winter. Was someone not having a helmet the deal breaker on riding? Personally, I don’t think so.”

    That is your opinion. My opinion is that this is nonsense. Lame excuses.

    DublinBikes which is smaller than Melbourne Bike Share has had a skyrocketing takeoff in the first year. I think you’ll find that Dublin weather isn’t much better than Melbourne’s if you’ve been there.

    It is also clear that in Melbourne people are taking these bikes out without helmets and risking the fine. Of course, these statistics will not be collected and because ‘helmets are compulsory’ it will be assumed by the authorities that all renters are helmeted…

    I have seen quite a few helmetless CityCycle riders and you know what? Who cares… They were minding their own business, cycling carefully and looked really happy. More bikes out there is better for us all. It’s time to get rid of this silly law.

    Another point. You say:

    “CityCycle is designed to be an alternative to other forms of transport for commuters.”

    Well… err… no. That is what you’ve been TOLD by the Council and you’re doing a good job at repeating this propaganda. These bicycle hire schemes are certainly used by commuters but more importantly, people doing short trips between destinations in the cities make up the bulk of trips. That is how the Vélib system has been running in Paris, same with Bixi in Montréal & Bici in Barcelona. Commuters are not the majority of users. By claiming that CityCycle bikes are ‘really for commuters’ the council is making it easier to sidestep the helmet issue as commuters aren’t going to be bothered so much – they go to the office; they go home.

    We need to get rid of the mindset of cycling a ‘sport’ or for ‘commuting’ and nothing in between.

    Cycling (I’m not talking about the SPORT of cycling here…) is safe. You shouldn’t be forced to wear a helmet. If you want to wear one, great – but that should be your choice.

    • howmanypandas

      Interesting points.
      I can only speak from my own experiences, PT. I use it for short trips on weekends, after work – I work outside of the CityCycle zone, so I can’t use it to get to work. But I see after looking up my choice of word after your post that I use commute interchangeably with social uses, eg. To the cafe, to the gym, to a friends, to the movies…
      So bad word choice aside, I stand by what I said.
      RE: Helmets – I have only seen 3 people without helmets. I would personally not choose to ride sans helmet, on or off the bike paths. Maybe I am a victim of a marketing message, but I don’t even notice it, until I take it off and my hair is blah.

      • Primal Tuna

        Yes, commuting is technically really about going to/from work. All those other trips are the ones we should be doing by bicycle – precisely the ones you do – which is wonderful to see. Keep it up and become an advocate for better infrastructure and law reform (strict liability, etc)! These new ‘citizen cyclist’ voices, such as yours, are so very important.

        You might find though, that you will want your own upright bike, like a Dutch Gazelle or Danish Velorbis (both can be bought in Australia and while they look expensive, it is money well spent) and then you can really take it where you want. This is the sort of influence Bixi, Vélib & Bici has had on the citizens of Montréal, Paris & Barcelona. Those that have not cycled before try these bikes (low cost/risk) and then when they discover how great & safe it is, they buy their own!

        Regarding helmets: I would never suggest that you shouldn’t wear a helmet – that should be your choice and yours alone. Unfortunately it is not a choice in this country and those that are happy wearing one often don’t see the issue with making it compulsory – that is the issue.

        If mandatory helmet legislation was such a great idea we would see countries like The Netherlands adopt similar laws – they just haven’t. They wear helmets when competing in cycle-sport but that’s about it.

    • Taezar

      OMG. I am in LOVE with the bright red velobris. Let’s see how I feel in a year re cycling. I mist admit I would be worried someone would nick it. Which currently isn’t an issue with #citycycle.

  • Dr Paul Martin

    Hi Taezar,

    You might like this blog: http://letsgorideabike.com/



  • HowManyPandas on the Radio Again. « Howmanypandas

    […] hour period and link backs… smashed them actually. You can also read the whole entry in full here or by clicking on the picture on the right, or read all of my CityCycle thoughts by […]

  • howmanypandas.com » Blog Archive » HowManyPandas on the Radio Again.

    […] hour period and links in… smashed them actually. You can also read the whole entry in full here or read all of my CityCycle thoughts by clicking here. Cheers HMP aka That chick on a CityCycle […]

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