The company in charge of Australia’s first electric bike sharing scheme says it will complement rather than compete with public transport such as Newcastle’s light-rail line.
BYKKO, which won a Transport for NSW contract to roll out the pilot scheme, distributed 100 electric bikes on Monday to 17 docking stations from Wickham to Nobbys to Bar Beach. The network includes two more docking points under construction at The Junction and Marketown.
Each of the bikes costs more than $2000, suggesting the NSW government has spent at least half a million dollars setting up the share scheme as part of its $20 million statewide pilot program for on-demand transport services.
The docking points follow a similar route to where the tram will run from early next year, but BYKKO managing director Monica Zarafu expected the electric bikes to encourage rather than detract from public transport.
“We don’t see bike sharing as competing,” she said at Monday’s launch.
“It’s actually complementary, because bikes will extend the accessibility radius of every single transit point from 400 metres, which is walking distance – let’s say 800 metres – and electric bikes you can go to 25 kilometres.
“What we hope will happen is that people will be more inclined to use the train and the light rail and jump on a bike, because in half an hour you can go to any part of Newcastle and come back in another half an hour.”
The French-made bikes have a range of up to 70 kilometres and a top speed of 25kmh, at which point their power assistance cuts out.
Ms Zarafu, a transport planner who moved to Australia from Romania 10 years ago, said the disruption caused by light-rail and building works in Newcastle provided a good opportunity to change people’s transport behaviour.
“Sharing makes sense when you talk about population growth and densities, and as you can see in Newcastle there is a big boom in construction.
“You’ll have higher density than you used to have, and open space is limited.
“I personally think it’s the right time to do it, because this is how changes happen in Europe, too.
“You have very high congestion so people start looking at alternative options, or during construction works, when the entire city is disrupted, and people are looking at alternatives.
“I think now is a great time to show people it’s another way of transport.”
The bikes have three payment options: a casual rate of $5.99 per half hour and subscriptions for $22 a week or $49 a month ($24.50 concession).
Each bike comes with a helmet and light. Riders have to be over 18, or over 15 and accompanied by an adult.
Ms Zarafu said Newcastle was joining only about 10 other cities around the world with e-bike sharing, including Milan, Madrid, Oslo, Zurich and Lisbon, but many others were looking at similar schemes.
“Everyone tries to move to electric bikes for exactly these reasons, because it targets a larger market, especially not-so-fit people, because this is a barrier to cycling.
“We’ll see more. From my research, almost every single city that has public bike sharing is looking to extend with electric bikes.”
She said the bikes could be a “last-mile solution” for commuters or an option for tourists who wanted to explore the city.
“It’s more convenient for some trips and some people to share a bike. It’s more affordable than to own an expensive electric bike.
“As long as we create appeal for cycling, then, yes, people will start buying their own bikes and cycling more, getting more exercise.”