Tag Archives: CityCycle

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So What’s Up with CityCycle? Some Questions Answered

citycycle rack newfarm

Fantastic shot by StephenK1977 via Flickr

I was thinking about what I was going to write next week to commemorate 2 months of citycycling around BrisVegas when today CityCycle (JCDecaux) called me.

At first I thought it was going to be that survey that was doing the rounds a month or so back. Instead it was someone to answer my questions – someone who actually knew some answers and had a positive attitude… totally unlike my second last experience with their Call Centre team.

I was gobsmacked recently when I rode past Commercial/Florence St #65 after a little under a week away to see the once busy station closed – red guards in place and everything. This station is used a lot by the Bulimba crowd, so I couldn’t understand why it was closed, especially given that stations #66 and #67 (the large stations built for the bus hub and cross river ferry) had yet to open.

So I sent an email and expected one of the typical emails back. Instead, I got a phone call and since this person was in the know and helpful, decided to ask all the questions that no one else seemed to have been able to answer.

So why is #65 closed given that it is currently the only station near the ferry terminal?
Oh. It is closed for two weeks due to building construction next to the site and then it will be open again.

When are the other stations (66/67) going to open?
Early 2011.

BREAKING NEWS: CityCycle has opened station #67 – Vernon Tce and Commercial Rd 24 hours after saying it wouldn’t open till 2011. I will pretend it is because I told them that you couldn’t catch the CityCat there and that people needed a station for the cross river ferry. In truth I go back to my communication comment, as he physically looked up the stations in the system for opening dates. No surprised they can’t communicate with the general public if they can’t even get their internal communication right.

So not late 2010? (as per advertising)
Unfortunately no, 2011.

CityCycle South Bank

One station now live kinda close to South Bank - but isn't a major station

So does this mean that the stations at Southbank are going to be early 2011?
We don’t know. We are waiting for signoff from Southbank Corporation.

(????) So it has nothing to do with you?
Waiting for Southbank.

What about the people who have signed up but can’t actually use the system at all or as it is supposed to be used? When Merthyr Village went down I got a number of weeks added to my account. Some people still can’t ride at all.
We are doing extensions for those subscribers.

There was some idle banter but that is the crux of it.

Another great shot by StephenK1977

Now we already know that the problem with the inital construction of the stations (some are still being built) is the Brisbane City Council. But what I (and others I had spoken to) wasn’t aware that the hold up with getting stations into Southbank, possibly the most relevant place to have them is Southbank itself. Now we know that Southbank is a state owned corporation, and were recently in the news due to planning rights negatively impacting the BCC – at the time I was thinking so what? The ABC is getting a nice new studio finally! Now of course it directly impacts me and dang it all if I don’t agree with Can-do Campbell. (For those keeping count, we are at 3 things) Why, if this has been signed off on and part of the service level agreement has it not been signed off?

What I foolishly didn’t ask was why there was such a hold up on the other stations (blown back from late 2010 to early 2011) – because there is a station just near Southbank that would be awesome. I also didn’t ask why they didn’t communicate to their users that the station #65 was going to close temporarily. They did post on their webpage (and I use the term literally not flatteringly) that they had opened six new stations, taking their total to 57. How did I find out? BCC twitter account – CityCycle’s communication team does not exist I have decided. I have commented a couple of times in previous pieces and interviews that their communication, or rather lack of it, is their biggest challenge.

57 < 100. 43 in a month is just not going to happen.

It is great to hear though that subscribers who have bought their card to “change they way you move” will get extensions – though I suggest you probably need to call the Call Centre to get that done.

So let’s talk about the last few weeks of CityCycle.

First up – a HUGE improvement on the movement of bikes in New Farm, Teneriffe and The Valley. Within 48 hours of my radio interview on Brisbane’s #1 breakfast show (That is ABC Brisbane612) bikes were being regularly shuffled. I could check in on the app during the day and see the stations getting evened out. So 10 points for fixing that.

Secondly, they finally opened my second (of three) local stations. I finally don’t have to cycle up a hill to rack my bike after riding for 25mins. That is worth another 30 points.

Thirdly, they have finished construction on my third station – located at Malt St – so soon I can skip the hills and coast downhill into the city – YAY! Please open this station soon, but for finally finishing it – you can have another 20 points.

Forthly, you opened up the stations at The Palace Barracks and Palace Centro (local station recently opened) in time for BIFF. I can’t tell you how great it was to be able to cycle to BIFF. Not having to pay for parking or circle and circle to find a park in a side street when the carpark is full at The Barracks was just awesome. Cycling home (mostly down hill) after 9pm at night with the cool breeze past my face was brilliant. Dodging drunken twats in The Valley, not so much.

Fifthly, their response to my email – a call was super nice – so another 10 points there. Normally I get an email like this one. You do get a response quickly which is good, and I have seen them action an email, fixing a station problem.

Prompt but soulless.

Sixthly, I am seeing a lot more people riding. I am seeing more people heading back from work and on the weekends it remains very popular. I am changing roles, so hopefully my next position will see me working near a CityCycle station!

The only negatives has been 2 faulty bikes – 1 with a faulty seat lever and 1 with dodgy gears, and of course their woeful communication with the public and their users.
My suggestions: Get a Communications person on board – my contract finishes on December 3rd – so I am available. Update your app so I can email you directly from it, rather than having to go onto the webpage on my mobile device. Get a twitter account – I saw a tweet the other day asking the BCC CityCycle questions. Communicate with your users.

Things are slowly turning the corner for CityCycle. A couple of friends of mine just moved into the next street from me, I asked them if they were going to subscribed – they said yes. Good sign.

#threepandas

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HowManyPandas on the Radio Again.

All bikes, no racks. Status quo in New Farm/Fortitude Valley/Teneriffe/Merthyr

Well, one month in and people seem to be, if anything, more interested than ever in how CityCycle is going and amazingly my thoughts on it – I was even contacted for a TV news story on the gosh darn thing. I think I am one of the few people blogging about CityCycle, or I am the one who promotes their blog the most and also lucky enough to have some great readers who promote it on.

To celebrate CityCycle’s one month anniversary birthday on Monday, I was on Brisbane’s #1 Breakfast show again (go Spencer!), discussing some of the ongoing challenges faced by CityCycle and their users. You can hear the whole interview here care of 612Brisbane’s blog spot or by clicking on the picture on the right.
Monday broke my all time record for searches to find my site (people searched Pandas CityCycle or How Many Pandas CityCycle or variations – a direct consequence of my guest spot on 612 Brisbane), the record on hits on a an individual post, hits on my homepage, total overall views for a 24 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 you see at Teneriffe and Merthyr all the time.
PS. And today it is back to normal with Smallville Bondage and TV Euthanasia topping my search links.

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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.

Highlights:
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.

#twopandas
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Are the naysayers right about CityCycle?

You can tell this station isn't in New Farm or Teneriffe - There are lots of spaces AND bikes.

I have been a vocal supporter of CityCycle, forgiving their many errors and tardiness as teething problems, but still doggedly showering love on the program. But are those who say CityCycle will fail actually correct? All that I see cite the helmet laws as the nail in the coffin for CityCycle, but I think CityCycle’s greatest challenge is CityCycle themselves.

Looking back, the signs were all there.

I remember the day before CityCycle went live, I called their Call Centre to confirm that my location stations would be open on the 1st of October, and that their use wouldn’t be delayed until after Senor CanDo had done his official (and I suggest only) ride. I was reassured that my stations would be opened at 5am. At 5.15am I went to hire a bike, no bikes. Infact, only one of the two stations opened (with no bikes until 2.30pm) and the second station still hasn’t opened. A third station (and my closest) still isn’t finished, though I do see workers every few days. I should say, station building isn’t JCD’s fault, it is done by the council.
It is now 3 weeks in. Stations are slowly (read very!) opening, but problems remain with existing stations and areas.

An ongoing issue in my area (Teneriffe/Powerhouse/Merthyr/New Farm) is either a lack of bikes or a lack of spaces, and given that not all stations are live, it can be a bit of a walk to the next station. I spoke about this a week ago, and if anything, the problem has become worse as the weather improves and more people start using the program.

On Sunday, I decided to ride to my favourite Chai hangout to do some word dumping, then take a long and leisurely ride home taking some shots. Firstly, at Merthyr Village, there was only 3 racks free when I arrived at 8am. Secondly, after a ride down to Sydney Street and then a cycle back to the Powerhouse there were no spaces available. This is 10am Sunday morning. New Farm Park/Powerhouse is one of the few places you actually can ride to (other than the Botanical Gardens) and hang out on the grass on a beautiful day and at 10am it was already full. I decided to just ride on, and reset my bike at Macquarie St so I didn’t’ get charged extra. However, when two friends rode to New Farm later that day – there were no spaces at all in the area of Powerhouse and New Farm. Late afternoon, two more friends went to the Powerhouse, only to again find no spaces to rack their bikes. They ended up using a station quite some distance from the Powerhouse and then walked back (I hope they made their show in time). My friend called the Call Centre to get an idea of what was going on. He was informed that during the week (read business days) teams are dispatched within the hour of a rack being full or empty to move the bikes around, though on weekends they were trying to work out how to do it. Read most likely, no staff moving bikes on the weekend. I decided to put it to the test yesterday (Wednesday).

You might say it was entrapment, but I did not provide the shovel for them to dig themselves into this hole.
I know that the busiest station in my area is Merthyr Village – so I monitored it throughout the afternoon. 2 spaces at 1pm. 1 space at 2pm. 1 space at 3pm. 1 space at 4pm. 0 spaces at 4.30pm. 0 spaces at 5.00pm. 0 spaces at 5.30pm. 0 spaces at 6pm. 0 spaces at 7pm.

I got home at 4.30pm and decided to ride down to Merthyr (I needed a baguette, really). I called CityCycle to confirm that the station was actually working – you may remember that this station was allowing people to rack bikes but not to borrow when CityCycle went live (read when the station finally opened in the afternoon of the 2nd). I explained that I was riding to Merthyr. Angela (yes, name and shame) informed me that the station was working fine (more on that later) and that I could borrow a bike no problems. I explained again that I was riding to Merthyr but there were no spaces. She helpfully told me it was full. I told Angela that I had been monitoring the station all afternoon, and I was curious why no team had been sent to Merthyr to shift the bikes and make room as it was such a high volume destination (I have never ridden to Merthyr without seeing another person doing the same or walking around the complex with their yellow eyesore). I said that I was under the impression that CityCycle had a team that moved bikes within the hour of no bikes or no spaces being flagged on their system. She put me on hold. When she came back about 3 mins later, she told me, with what I can only describe as lacking in grace, that they don’t have enough technicians to move the bikes – they may be able to get some moved at 6am tomorrow. No apologies for inconvenience. No explaining on how the system works if you ride to a station and it is full. She didn’t even offer me the location of the closest available station.

Knowing full well there were no spaces available, I decided to put their reswipe system to the test. For those not in the know, if you arrive at a station and there are no spaces, you swipe, it extends your hire for an extra 15mins at no charge and displays the closest alternative locations and rack availability.

Service Level Agreement? Pishposh!

So I ride to Merthyr. I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with it, because I just knew it would be a balls up. I even tweeted that I was going for a ride and most likely have to drive back to go buy my baguette.

I arrive at Merthyr. 0 spaces available – however there are three racks with the red plastic guards on them (faulty/non-operational). I ride up onto the pavement and swipe. It helpfully tells me that there are actually 3 racks available. I helpfully inform the machine that actually I can’t use those three, so please rethink this answer.

I swipe again. Same result. I swear those stations don’t listen. The station does tell me that if I am having problems, to call CityCycle – they are actually set to a speed dial I call so often (again that should be a sign). I get a guy, Nick I think. I explain to him that there are no spaces at Merthyr, but that it won’t approve a swipe to extend to cycle to the next stop. He doesn’t know what to do or say. We decided to take it one step at a time. I explain where I am, the station number, and that the station won’t allow me to extend my ride.

He has NO idea what to do. I mean it, absolutely nothing. I tell him that the station thinks there are three available racks, yet the app (AllBikesNow) says there are none, and that I can see that there are three racks vacant but that they are blocked with the red plastic guards. Still no idea what to do. Now I know that I rode here pretty fast, didn’t take the leisurely route I normally take – I so I have a good 10 mins before it becomes a problem and I get fined (and I half wanted this to happen to see how they would go with it). He doesn’t ask for my membership number to make a note incase I get charged. He doesn’t suggest the closet stations (which won’t display because this station thinks there are three spaces), only confusion. He doesn’t even apologise for the inconvenience. Just as I hear him get to a whole new level of flustered and nervous laughing, a user comes up who wants to take out a bike. I say goodbye to Nick, who is thanking Mary McKillop, that someone showed up.

All does not go smoothly however. The rack won’t release. She swipes, picks a bike and it won’t release. You can hear the click but the bike won’t budge. We try three times on different bikes and finally get one out. One user had this happen recently, but the station thought that they HAD taken the bike even though they couldn’t remove it. Naturally, there was noone at the Call Centre, so they left a message and faced a 12 hour charge on their account. The next day, the problem was solved, but no ride for that user as planned. At least this time, I can lock my bike in.

I go buy my baguette and naturally run into an ex workmate while I have helmet hair, but that is ok… really.
As I am walking back towards the pavement, I see a woman on a CityCycle pushing her bike along the pavement to get back onto the road. Obviously she has just tried to rack her bike (still no spaces) and swipe her card. She jumps back onto the bike on the road and heads off at speed to New Farm CityCat Terminal (the closet operational station). I get my bike back out (I do have a favourite bike, though it isn’t at my local station anymore as I stupidly rode it on a one way trip last night after my shopping adventures – #881 best bike of all I have used – I have at least 10+ trips on her too #sadpanda) and headed back. I pass another CityCycler heading towards Merthyr (I assume) just around the corner. I wish them a silent “good luck” and ride home.

5 Stations Opened in 3 weeks (including 1 that was broken)

Shortly after I get home, I check again – it is now 6pm and still 0 spaces. At 6.45pm I head out again. As I mentioned, I went out again last night via CityCycle to a pizza place on Merthyr right by a station. As I was riding there, I saw a lady get onto a CityCycle with shopping bags at Macquarie St. When I got to Vespa I checked the app – 7pm and still no spaces. Her shopping trip won’t end as well as mine did I imagine.

So my question is, CityCycle, when are you going to pull your finger out and fix the busted stations? When are you going to train your call centre staff so they have information required by users? When are you going to have the staff numbers to service the program as promised so that people who are using can actually use it? And finally, what are you doing to compensate the people who subscribed but their stations still aren’t live almost a month in – and let’s not forget those who are waiting for stations that are are at the “hopefully by the end of the year.”

When it works it is great, but right now we are still sitting at just under a pass over all.
My rating for yesterday afternoon is:

#halfapanda


Two Weeks into CityCycle – Just how are we going?

Still not enough of theseTwo Weeks In:

They say two weeks is a long time in politics, but in CityCycle time it doesn’t seem to be that long. Granted we have had a LOT of rain, but the pace of failed stations going live and new stations opening is progressing at a pace that is leaving even patient turtles drumming their claws.

I have been riding at every opportunity – whether it be a dash to Merthyr Village for a baguette (yes I did ride back with a baguette in my basket but forgot to wear my striped shirt and beret) – or just going for a leisurely cruise along the boardwalk at sunset, I have clocked up around 4.5 hours and just under 20 rides. I have had, on the whole very good experiences. Only one more bike has been dodgy, so I put it back with its seat back to front (that is what we are adopting right?) and another subscriber advised me that he grabbed a bike only to realise into the ride that his tyre was flat.

My closest station still isn’t finished, though they have at least started the station now. The station at Merthyr Village is still techy. They finally got it working again after a week, and people who lived in the area, couldn’t hire and called, or people like myself who called after riding there then unable get back without a walk to another station, got a few extra weeks added to their subscription

My biggest beef with CityCycle is just that stations that make PERFECT sense to be the first ones rolled out aren’t live. According to fellow subscriber, CityCycle responded to his enquiry regarding Southbank, and they advised that they hoped they would be ready by the end of the year. End of the year? Seriously?

Another problem has been with the lack of response in moving bikes around. More than once I have gone past a station multiple times with only 1 bike or past a station with only 1-2 free bases. Surely the team (with so few bases to monitor) can address this. Another problem are stations going live that aren’t finished – i.e.. No numbers on the bike racks – which makes working out which bike you are supposed to release kind of tricky. CityCycle did respond to my emails regarding this and have fixed up one already.

I have learnt a few tricks along the way. The most important one is how to reset a station. If you swipe your card and it gets stuck on Validating, hit V a few times, and it will bounce back to the Welcome Screen. Try and swipe again, repeat. After a few tries, the station with “close” with the red unavailable message. Fear not, in 30 seconds, it will reboot with a Welcome Screen and you can successfully swipe.

My biggest beefs about riding has nothing to do with CityCycle – it has to do with people who park so atrociously they force you out of the bike lane (I am looking at you people of Teneriffe). Pedestrians who just step out into the bike lane to check for cars. Let’s not forget cars that push through intersections into the bike lane before they can go, again forcing you out of the bike lane. My biggest beef though is reserved for bus drivers. Yes, I said it! Going through red lights, blocking intersections, cutting infront of you and half stopping against the curb so their tail sticks out, forcing you into traffic – or the classic pull out then indicate. I am half tempted to take my dive pad with me (you strap it on your arm and you can write underwater) so I can name and shame.

Must haves in your CityCycle bag – phone (for calling CityCycle), a small hand towel/face washer to dry the seat and hand grips, GoCard incase you get stuck, and a brush or comb. Baguette is optional.

CityCycle remains at the same PandaRating, though I certainly see light at the end of the tunnel. You can read my first review of CityCycle here.
#twopandas
PS. Apologies for the odd formatting – no idea what I clicked.
UPDATE: I want to add “Pedestrians who stroll along share paths 3-4 abreast or pushing strollers who think that the bell I ring isn’t directed at them. Often times there isn’t anyway to go around them, esp on the boardwalks. The bike is heavier so slower to stop and less manoeuvrable. Oh and parents who let toddlers run back and forth along the paths thinking it is funny/brilliant, then give you death looks when you almost fall off avoiding their kid.”  #bitterpanda

HowManyPandas on the Radio

I talk about these!

As a follow up to my post on Brisbane’s new CityCycle program, I was ABC Radio this morning.

You can listen to me here via 612Brisbane.


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.