Canberra's dockless share bikes set to roll on. Now for e-scooters?
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Canberra's dockless share bikes set to roll on. Now for e-scooters?

Canberra's dockless bike share scheme will continue beyond the trial period's January 31 end date, as the ACT government gives its strongest signal yet that the service will become a permanent fixture in the nation's capital.

And dockless electric scooters could be next to hit the city's street, with operator Airbike keen to leverage Canberrans' apparent enthusiasm for new modes of transport.

Charlotte England, pictured above, is one of thousands of Canberrans using Airbike to travel around the city.

Charlotte England, pictured above, is one of thousands of Canberrans using Airbike to travel around the city. Credit:Jamila Toderas

An ACT government spokeswoman said Airbike's service had "been popular and with minimal complaints" since the launch of a six-month trial on July 31.

More than 8230 trips have been taken on the distinctive white bikes during the trial, according to latest figures. About 3050 people are considered "active users" of the service by Airbike.

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The government spokeswoman said the scheme would be allowed to continue while it evaluated the trial, and weighed up whether to allow Airbike to operate permanently.

While a decision was not expected until the end of May, the spokeswoman noted the government's new transport strategy included a firm commitment to supporting dockless share bikes in the city.

She said the government was actively considering how the "service should be procured on a more permanent basis".

Airbike's new chief executive Terry Collins said the company was keen to remain in Canberra, and with an expanded presence.

The company had ambitions to triple the size of its 200-bike fleet, but Mr Collins said it would most likely start by offering 400 bikes if a permanent licence was granted.

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He said the operator would also seek permission to expand the footprint of its service, which has been limited to the city, the Australian National University and parliamentary triangle.

Unlike traditional share bikes, dockless vehicles do not have to be returned to a particular location, meaning they are vulnerable to being abandoned or vandalised.

Bike share operators have been forced to abandon cities across Australia in the past two years, as the prevalence of stray bikes angered residents and prompted a crackdown from local authorities.

Mr Collins said Canberra had avoided the problems which plagued operators interstate, with only six bikes reported to have been seriously damaged during the trial.

"Canberrans are sophisticated," he said. "The majority of people are students or public servants and they understand that it is the wrong thing to sabotage property.

"In those bigger markets like Sydney and Melbourne, there is a much bigger population of people who don't quite have that same sense of moral obligation."

Mr Collins said Airbike was also now keen to trial an electric-scooter service if the ACT government allowed it.

The arrival of dockless electric-powered scooters in Queensland has been controversial, with the Gold Coast Council last month removing the vehicles from its footpaths after they were placed there without its permission.

Mr Collins said his company was in "early stage development and selection of hardware" for a scooter trial, but could move quickly if "we get a lot of interest from the ACT government".

Dan Jervis-Bardy is a Canberra Times reporter.

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