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Airbike to finally launch in Adelaide this weekend

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Dockless bike-share company Airbike insists it is “definitely” coming to the city despite missing its July launch date, with a fleet of 20 bikes en route to Adelaide ahead of a planned weekend rollout.

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The Sydney-based company had originally intended to launch in time for March’s festival period – coinciding with the rollout of electric scooters in Adelaide – but cited ongoing problems with its Chinese bicycle manufacturer for the months-long delay.

Following that set-back, Airbike’s operations manager Matthew Creen told InDaily last month that the company would roll out a “small-scale” fleet of dockless bikes in the city by the end of July.

But Airbike is still not in Adelaide – weeks after the revised deadline – with the company now citing problems finding a truck company to transport its initial fleet of 20 bikes from Canberra to Adelaide as the cause for further delay.

The bikes are scheduled to be picked up from the company’s Canberra warehouse today, with Creen anticipating that people will be able to start riding them on city streets by Friday or Saturday.

“They are definitely coming to Adelaide, no question about that,” he told InDaily this morning.

“There has been some transport problems with a company initially quoting us and then not responding, so we’ve now managed to get Northline Transport on board to transport the bikes.

“The warehouse has been set up, the employees have been trained so they know what they need to do, so it’s all systems go from our end.”

Airbike’s Adelaide warehouse is located in Para Hills West and will be staffed by two employees tasked with maintaining the bikes.

That workforce is set to quickly grow, with the company scheduled to pick up an additional 200 bikes today from China ahead of its full Adelaide rollout in mid to late September.

“It’s only a small fleet to start with – roughly about 20 bikes on the street – so we can understand where we need to put the bikes in places where it’s going to be most beneficial for people such as near tram stops (and) places with high foot-traffic,” Creen said.

“We have got an office in Sydney and Canberra, so we will be utilising their resources in terms of marketing, the business operations and so forth, so the guys in Adelaide will be handling the day-to-day operations.

“As the full rollout gets underway there is the possibility that we will need to employ more people on the ground in Adelaide to manage that fleet.”

Airbike, which already operates a fleet of about 200 bikes in Canberra, works via a mobile app, with each bike fitted with a QR code that allows users to unlock the bike and start riding for a charge of $1.30 per half hour.

The company’s permit restricts bike use to within the Adelaide City Council boundary, however, unlike e-scooters, the bikes will not be geo-locked to prevent use outside the prescribed area.

Airbike’s impending arrival in Adelaide comes after two other bike-share companies – Ofo and Obikes – copped backlash from residents and the council over dumped and abandoned bikes left strewn about city streets.

The council refused to renew Obike’s permit last year, with Ofo voluntarily deciding to cease its Australian operations last July.

The current Adelaide bike-share scheme, Adelaide Free Bikes, which is operated by BikeSA and funded by the council, is expected to wrap-up once Airbike starts operating.

InDaily asked the council to reveal how much the Adelaide Free Bikes scheme costed ratepayers during Airbike’s five-month delay entering the Adelaide market, but did not receive a response.

Airbike’s imminent arrival will mark the first time a bike-share company will be forced to contend with e-scooters in the city.

In April, the council granted Melbourne-based e-scooter company Ride and Singapore-based operator Beam a six-month trial to operate in the CBD.

On Tuesday the city council will vote to request an extension of the e-scooter boundary to North Adelaide ahead of the trial’s end on October 13.

Beam spokesperson Brad Kitschke said the company had written to both the council and State Government to extend the trial into North Adelaide, but the State Government had indicated it did not support the move.

“We think it would be a great opportunity to extend the boundaries and connect with the city more, particularly as most of the city residents live in North Adelaide and it would provide a flexible mode of transport to the CBD,” he said.

“When we last met with the (Transport) Minister’s office they said they were undertaking a review of metropolitan transport and e-scooters would be part of that process, but they wanted to wait for evidence-based consultation before committing to an extension of the boundary.”

Ride spokesperson Tom Cooper said the company also supported a move to extend the boundary, adding the company did not see Airbike’s imminent arrival in Adelaide as a threat.

“It provides an option for people in the city who perhaps don’t like riding scooters to still enjoy a bike-share option and we would encourage people to use it,” he said.

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