THE state government is backing Newcastle share-economy company BYKKO with a six-month trial of electric hire bikes in Newcastle and Hamilton early next year.
The trial of 100 bikes and 156 docking points at 19 stations was announced on Monday by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, as part of a government’ program supporting “on demand” public transport.
It was one of 11 pilot programs funded in various parts of the state from a funding pool of $20 million.
“On demand services offer a sustainable model of public transportation and electric bike share is an innovative approach to the future of urban mobility which is why I encourage all residents to take part in this unique trial that will help shape the future of transportation,” Mr MacDonald said.
“This is about personalising transport for our customers by providing a convenient new way to reach their destination quickly, safely and efficiently and at a time that suits them.
“Locations have been specifically designed to create a bike share network as an active transport connection between Hamilton, Newcastle West, Newcastle East and Newcastle CBD. To help alleviate cases of misuse all bikes must be returned to a docking bay.”
In an interview with the Newcastle Herald, Mr MacDonald said he was aware of the controversy surrounding hire bikes in other cities, where they were being left abandoned by users “on footpaths, in tress or in rivers”.
“I was in Beijing and Shanghai about two months ago and I have to admit you were tripping over them on already crowded footpaths,” Mr MacDonald said.
“I know there are issues in Sydney with people doing all sorts of things to them but I am a bit more confident here because they are electric and people have to take them back to a docking station.”
BYKKO managing director Monica Zarafu said the onus would be on hirers to return the bikes to their stations, because they would be charged for their continued use if they were not.
Ms Zarafu said she was “absolutely certain” that Newcastle was ready to embrace the share economy bikes.
She said BYKKO held a three-month trial starting last November with a single docking station, and this had given the confidence to work with the state government on a larger trial with more bikes.
Bikes could be booked on credit card or Paypal and charges ranged from $49 a month – which gave at least an hour a day of hire – down to $22 a week, giving 30 minutes a day hire, and a casual hire rate of $5.99 per half hour, with a $150 deposit. The bikes came with helmets.