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Council dumps Adelaide Free Bikes, but allows nine-month reprieve


The Adelaide Free Bikes scheme has nine months to find new money to sustain it after the city council confirmed it would stop funding the program at the end of this year.

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The council last night agreed to extend funding for the program until the end of 2018, costing an extra $60,000, but to withdraw all support after December 31.

It follows the incursion of two commercial dockless bikeshare companies, ofo and O-Bike, into Adelaide last year.

Councillors agreed that ratepayers should not fund a free competitor to commercial bikeshare operations.

The council also extended ofo and O-Bike’s ‘on-street operating’ permits until March 2019.

The Adelaide Free Bikes scheme has been operating since 2005.

It requires cyclists to return bikes to dedicated locations around the city – whereas the dockless bike-share schemes allow users to leave GPS-tracked bikes wherever their trip ends (within geographical boundaries) and come at a small cost.

Central ward councillor Houssam Abiad warned that keeping Adelaide Free Bikes, which is funded by the council and run by Bike SA, going until the end of the year could threaten the viability of ofo and O-Bike’s operations in Adelaide.

“I don’t want us to contribute financially to Bike SA and the Adelaide Free Bike program now that we’ve got private operators in the market,” Abiad said.

“I don’t understand the reason why we need to extend the current (Adelaide Free Bikes scheme) until the 31st of December.”

He argued the council could assist Bike SA with a transition to a different funding model by the time its current round of ratepayer support runs out at the end of June this year.

North ward councillor Sue Clearihan said she was unhappy the council had not consulted with the city residents who use Adelaide Free Bikes – who comprise about 20 per cent of its users.

South ward councillor Alex Antic told the meeting he did not want any expansion to the commercial bikeshare companies’ permits, arguing more bicycles risked having them strewn around the city, as they have been in Melbourne.

But the council voted by majority to endorse the extension, as well as a new set of criteria for deciding whether private bikeshare operators could expand the number of bikes allowed under their permit.

The number of bikes on the road will be allowed to increase – subject to approvals – if the average number of hires exceeds 1.2 hires per bike, per day.

On the other hand, if the rate of hires per bike is lower than 0.5 per day, the limit may be lowered.

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