We tried: Airbike - Canberra's first bike sharing service

We tried: Airbike - Canberra's first bike sharing service

As easy as riding a bike - literally.

Since the end of last month, Canberra has been trialling its first dockless bike sharing scheme run by Airbike. 'Dockless' literally means you can use an Airbike and leave it anywhere.

So, before they end up in Lake Burley or somewhere obscure, I thought I'd give it a try. (Dozens of oBikes were fished from the Yarra River in Melbourne last year).

I was a bit nervous taking on this assignment - I haven't owned a bike since I was about 10 and the last time I rode a bike (it was an electric one) was the first time in probably a decade. I fell off about 15 times, got a massive bruise and was very, very sore for a couple of days.


But, I'm committed to bringing you the news you want.

Reporter Han Nguyen tries out bike sharing service, Airbike, currently on a six-month trail in Canberra.

Reporter Han Nguyen tries out bike sharing service, Airbike, currently on a six-month trail in Canberra.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

During the six-month trial, which finishes on January 31, 2019, the bikes are limited to the city centre, the Australian National University campus and the Parliamentary Zone. Users can cycle outside of the operational zone but they must return the bikes to the area when finished.

There are about 100 bikes scattered throughout Canberra. By the end of August, there will be 200.

I download the Airbike app on my phone, wait for it to install, and then I'm ready.

I locate the perfect bike outside Canberra Theatre (among a group of about six). I scan the bike with my phone via the app, the bike magically unlocks and is all mine.

Each bike comes with a helmet, phone holder, solar lights at the front and rear of the bike, and a cute little basket you can put your things in. It also has three gears.

And just like that, I'm off, wind blowing in my hair.

For someone as clumsy as me, the bike is very easy to use. Luckily, it's the perfect height for me so I don't need to make any adjustments.

Airbike director Angus McDonald says the four main user groups are ANU students and staff, CIT students, workers in Civic and recreational uses looking to explore the capital.

I can see why Airbike is popular with students - it's a really fast way to get from campus to the city and you can put your bags and books in the basket. But if you're an office worker - especially a woman who likes to wear a skirt and heels, you might want to wear something more flexible. I changed from my heels to canvas shoes to ride.

The first three rides are free, and then it's $1.30 for every 30 minutes.

So far there haven't been any issues with the bikes, Mr McDonald says. The only thing he reports is one stolen light.

The service has had more than 1500 users since it launched, with a collective distance of about 400 kilometres ridden. Mr McDonald says there are 175 "active users" - those who use it three or more times a week.

Airbike has had more than 1500 users since it launched.

Airbike has had more than 1500 users since it launched.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

When it comes to returning the bike, I'm a little confused about how to lock it up and what I have to do to pay (at this stage I don't realise the first three rides are free). The app itself is simple to use, but a bit basic. More instructions on returning your bike and how to lock it up would be helpful (while the bike magically unlocked, it took photographer Dion and I about 15 minutes to work out how to lock the bike manually).

Mr McDonald says the company is in the final stages of testing improvements to the app.

Airbike can face fines up to $200 if bikes are left unrecovered in lakes, up trees, or in unsafe places or heritage areas.

The verdict: I will definitely use Airbike again, however, probably not in the city. I think it's too crowded to be riding around - especially if you're not as confident as I am. If the trial is successful, I'd love to use it around the lake. The app is easy to use, but I think it needs improvements on how to use the system and what to do with returning your bike - it confused me.

Details: For more information on Airbike visit the website: https://airbike.network

Han Nguyen reports on property for The Canberra Times. She joined the Times in 2017 after working as a breaking news reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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