Cycling around Melbourne was a breeze, thanks to the city’s bike share program. Melbourne’s system predated Brisbane CityCycle by only a few months, and I have read that it also had a slow start. Although the systems are similar in a number of ways, I want to point out three differences and discuss how those difference impact the system from a user perspective.
1. Melbourne Bike Share does not provide helmets at the stations. To comply with the mandatory helmet law, patrons must purchase a $5 helmet at the closest convenience store. Brisbane CityCycle, on the other hand, provides free helmets at the docking stations.
2. Melbourne Bike Share has a simple registration process. You walk up to the station, swipe your credit card, and you’re all set. Those interested in using Brisbane CityCycle must register on the website or give the system operators a call.
3. Melbourne Bike Share offers fewer docking stations at a lower density than Brisbane CityCycle. There are 50 stations in Melbourne, and 150 stations in Brisbane. Whereas docking stations in Brisbane are placed 300 meters, stations in Melbourne are often more than 500 meters to the next closest station.
Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Melbourne Bike Share is the clear winner when it comes to the registration process. Bike share, like other modes of transportation, is only successful if users can access the system spontaneously. Users expect their transportation mode to be there when they need it. Although Brisbane CityCycle has made the registration process fast and easy, it still requires a phone call or internet access to get started. Considering tourists (who may not have phones or access to internet) are some of the most frequent users of bikeshare, registration may be a major burden. Melbourne, like Washington, D.C., Paris, and most other programs, have eliminated that burden and made renting a bike as easy as purchasing coffee.
That being said, I prefer Brisbane CityCycle’s approach to helmets. Again, bikeshare needs to be spontaneous. Having to go to a convenience store to purchase a helmet is a barrier for many, especially considering the patrons will have to carry the helmet with them for the rest of the day. Although the yellow Brisbane CityCycle helmets are frequently stolen, I rarely see a docking station that doesn’t have five or more helmets dangling from the bikes. Although some users don’t like the fact that they need to share a helmet with others, the convenience of not having to carry around a helmet makes Brisbane CityCycle’s approach my preferred option.
Last, Brisbane CityCycle has a denser network of stations, offering three times as many places to dock the bicycles as Melbourne Bike Share. Network density matters to users because docking stations can fill with bicycles, requiring the patron to cycle to a station with available parking spots. In Melbourne, the walk or ride to the next station is much less convenient than Brisbane. That being said, Melbourne Bike Share’s design is not inadequate. Users should be able to access most areas of the central city without a problem, and the network density is roughly the equivalent of Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, the most successful U.S. bikeshare program.
All in all, we had an enjoyable time cycling around Melbourne. I’m looking forward to more cities hopping on the bikeshare bandwagon.