Pranksters cause headaches for Sydney councils wanting to control share bikes
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Pranksters cause headaches for Sydney councils wanting to control share bikes

A large pile of share bikes dumped at a park in Sydney's eastern suburbs has underscored the challenges for operators and councils in overseeing thousands of the bicycles that have turned up on the city's parks over the past three months.

Passers-by found the bikes owned by Singapore company oBikes in a heap at Waverley Oval near Bondi Junction on Friday.

They were quickly picked up by oBikes staff but the circumstances around how they came to be stacked in a pile remains a mystery.

oBikes and Reddy Go, the first two "dockless" bike-share companies to launch in Sydney, say the problem of their bicycles ending up in the wrong places is not so much due to users but pranksters deciding to throw them in trees or waterways.

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oBikes were found in a pile at Waverley Oval near Bondi Junction on Friday.

oBikes were found in a pile at Waverley Oval near Bondi Junction on Friday.Credit:Lucie Billingsley

While Sydney councils remain supportive of the schemes that allow people to rent bikes via smartphone apps, they are starting to take a harder line by threatening fines and greater regulation.

Waverley and Randwick councils backed motions at meetings last week to consider imposing financial penalties for share bikes parked in the wrong places.

Inner West Council wants to bring councils together to consider a regional response to the bike-share schemes it says are "spinning out of control on Sydney's streets".

The council's mayor, Darcy Byrne, said the schemes offered a chance to boost the take up of cycling and combat congestion but their success hinged on proper regulation and a consistent way by councils to allocate parking spaces for bikes.

Reddy Go founder Donald Tang says complaints have been relatively low.

Reddy Go founder Donald Tang says complaints have been relatively low.Credit:Nick Moir

"Allowing a free-for-all with no allocated parking or protections for residents will only result in the industry losing popularity and losing patronage," he said.

oBikes spokesman Chethan Rangaswamy said the vast majority of its users were responsible, and the problems were mostly caused by non-users tossing bikes into waterways or other inappropriate spots.

A dockless bike perched on a fence at Coogee in Sydney's eastern suburbs last week..

A dockless bike perched on a fence at Coogee in Sydney's eastern suburbs last week..Credit:Alex Smith

"It is more a case of random people rather than the users themselves," he said.

But he said there was "no silver bullet" because as councils or the bike-share companies could not easily stop random misuse.

oBikes has a credit-score system to encourage users to report vandalism but has yet to penalise people for improper acts because the bike-sharing scheme is in its infancy in Sydney.

However, Mr Rangaswamy said it would consider penalising users if they show repeated instances of bad behaviour, such as consistently leaving bikes in the wrong places. "It would mean they will have to pay a higher rate," he said.

The bike-share companies and councils are hoping better public education will result in a change in behaviour over the next year and the schemes becoming more accepted.

Reddy Go, the first to launch share bikes in Sydney, has 2600 operating on the city's streets from Chatswood in the north to the CBD and Bondi to Wolli Creek in the south, and plans to release another 3400 in the next few months.

The company's founder, Donald Tang, said complaints about the bikes were low in comparison to their use. In the past month, Reddy Go has averaged per day 1500 rides and eight complaints in Sydney.

Of the 258 complaints received, 154 have been about bikes parked in the wrong location and 98 from people objecting to the service. Two have been about bikes found in trees and four in waterways.

"We are trying to encourage people to use the service and educate people to park the bicycles in the correct legal area," Mr Tang said.

About 28,000 people have registered with Reddy Go.

oBikes has more than 1000 bikes in Sydney, while another competitor, Airbike, launched at Sydney University's campus last week.

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City of Sydney Council said the state government was best placed to develop an appropriate response to managing share bikes.

"Whilst we support the concept of bike share, we continue to stress our concerns about safety, redistribution of bikes and accessibility on footpaths, and have found operators to be responsive to public queries and complaints," a spokesman said.

Matt O'Sullivan is the Transport Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.