Opinion | Charging ahead: city e-bike option gains traction

READY TO GO: An impression of an e-bike station, which has been incorporated into an apartment complex design in Canberra. Image: Art Group
READY TO GO: An impression of an e-bike station, which has been incorporated into an apartment complex design in Canberra. Image: Art Group

Australia’s first smart-electric bike share system for a residential building was launched in Canberra on April 28 when ACT Minister for Transport, Meegan Fitzharris, made the announcement in the territory’s Legislative Assembly.

Bike-sharing platform BYKKO and developer Art Group teamed up to provide 10 shared electric bikes at the On Forbes apartments in the suburb of Turner, which is close to Canberra City and the Australian National University. Canberrans pushing for “active” travel are enthusiastic about this initiative and see it integrating with the Northbourne Avenue light-rail corridor.

Despite the national capital creating a national first and recognising our e-bike initiative, Newcastle remains at the forefront of our plans. BYKKO is a Newcastle-based company and the city is in the midst of its biggest transport system shake-up in decades.

A three-month trial over summer based in the West End was an unqualified success and participants said more stations should be installed around the city.

Now we are selling into a national market, the hope is to start a conversation about a new approach to modern city transport solutions. It’s certainly a good time for Newcastle to be considering e-bikes given the light-rail construction and the new inner-city university campus. Novocastrians are being forced to think about how they want to live in, and get around, the city.

Using European technology, BYKKO provides lightweight power-assisted bikes suitable for people of all fitness and ability levels. International research has found e-bikes encourage more people to cycle. Bike-share stations are delivering proven health benefits and minimising the carbon footprint.

Bike-share stations have also been found to add up to 3 per cent to property values. Developers are realising residents welcome bike-share options in much the same way they do pools and gyms. The On Forbes apartments in Canberra come with a free 12-month e-bike share subscription for residents.

The BYKKO system includes a charge station and e-bikes with integrated locking and charging technology, a one-swipe checkout system, a user-friendly web/app platform, and intelligent fleet management and maintenance.

The e-bikes have a daily range of 50 kilometres and can reach speeds of up to 25kmh. They are a new model of active city transport for the city. E-bikes are a very social form of transport and strike a chord with the over-50, 60 and 70 age groups. 

E-bikes should form part of any integrated modern transport strategy and the government should be supportive of developments that include smart-bike stations and cycling facilities in their apartment plans. Canberra already has one of the highest cycling rates in the country, but less than 3 per cent of Canberrans commute to work. The hope is the initiative at the new apartments will encourage more commuters to embrace active travel. 

Newcastle too has instigated a smart-city strategy, and a digitally enabled e-bike share network integrated with public transport infrastructure would provide valuable data to plan and build this smart city. 

Electric bike-share systems enhance the way people can move around cities and offer another option for integrated transport as part of urban renewal. 

Monica Zarafu is founder and managing director of BYKKO