You’ve recently launched what you say is Australia’s first electric bike share trial, here in Newcastle. Why has it never been done before?
Bike sharing is a fast growing worldwide phenomenon however electric bike share technology is a new development in this field, even for countries with more experience in bike sharing than Australia. The advantage of being a bit slow in adopting bike sharing in Australia is that we can benefit from the fifth generation of bike sharing technology.
Why was Newcastle chosen to pilot your bike-share trial?
It was one of the first cities in Australia to have an automated bike hire system for tourists; we have been running the Swipe&Ride stations on Honeysuckle Drive since 2014. We received many emails and calls from residents asking us to implement a bike share program for locals similar to what they have seen overseas. Through a mapping exercise, we found out that Newcastle has an abundance of traffic-calmed residential back streets, shared waterfront promenades, and non-vehicular crossings over the former rail easement, which make the city more permeable for cyclists than for motorists. The ‘Making Your Place’ grant from City of Newcastle assisted us.
How will it work?
We’ve just launched the BYKKO bike share trial with an electric bike share hub out the front of Rethink Financial Group, Newcastle West. The hub operates like a bike ‘library’ where users create an online account, check out the bike, go for a ride and return the bike to the same hub. The first 90 minutes are free, after which there is a small charge of $2 per hour to incentivise people to return the bike so other people can use the bikes too. We already have more than 30 people registered for the trial and are still receiving inquiries from more people interested to be part of this experiment.
Why do the trial?
To prove a simple concept – give people a choice, an alternative solution to an increasing problem, and they will choose the best way to serve their interest. In Newcastle we are seeing numerous problems such as increasing traffic, lack of parking spaces, health issues. BYKKO electric bike-sharing offers solutions for people who want an alternative to using cars to get around the city. I’m not saying that people won’t drive their cars anymore but they might choose to ride an electric bike for a trip that otherwise they would have done by car. Since we installed the station, people are telling us that they decided not to drive to work because they knew there is an electric bike they could use for a meeting in city. Or that they are using the bikes to avoid looking for a park.
The hub is like a bike ‘library’ where users create an online account, check out the bike, go for a ride and return the bike. The first 90 minutes are free, after which there is a small charge of $2 per hour to incentivise people to return the bike so others can use it, too.Monica Zarafu
When, why and where did you found BYKKO?
I founded BYKKO (previously known as Interbike) in 2014, together with my business and life partner, Marius Zarafu. We started as a family owned business operating a network of automated bike hire terminals in partnership with high-end, luxury hotels in Sydney, Newcastle and Hunter Valley. We expanded the business to cover all aspects of bike sharing from research and planning to delivering turnkey projects. Today BYKKO has a small but talented and passionated team of professionals with background in transport planning, architecture and design, urban planning, industrial design, automatic systems and marketing.
What sort of professional experience did you have prior to founding it?
I am a transport engineer specialized in advanced transport technologies with over 20 years of academic, local government and industry practice in Australia and overseas.
What is your core business?
To provide electric bike share programs in partnership with developers, corporates, private businesses, universities and municipalities helping them to create sustainable living and working environments for their communities.
What are BYKKO’s biggest challenges?
The same challenges faced by any startup or small business investing in innovation in Australia: the lack of financial support from banks and government, and the resistance of the marketplace to innovation, especially in the public sector. The other challenge is around changing behaviour in a country which has been so reliant on cars and which has been slow to adopt integrated public transport solutions.
What are BYKKO’s goals?
To create a nationwide network of successful electric bike share and personal mobility programs.
Which countries best bike-share?
China is by far he global leader. In Europe, France leads followed by Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and UK. Globally, there are more than 1,000,000 bikes available for sharing.
Is Australia a ripe market?
Ask me in 12 months.