Lime jumps on Uber’s bike in bid to end bumpy road for bike share in Melbourne

First came the state government's blue bikes, which failed due to underuse. Then followed oBikes, until they were targeted by vandals. Finally, Uber introduced the Jump e-bikes – only to pull them off the streets weeks later.

When it comes to bike share schemes, Melbourne has not been an overly accommodating city, with mandatory helmet laws often cited as a contributing factor. However, that hasn't stopped another company from having a go at making them work.

Jeremy Pereira and partner Gianna Donnini give the Lime bikes a go in Brunswick on Tuesday.Credit:Eddie Jim

Lime, known overseas for its electric scooter hire schemes, has rolled out a fleet of 400 dockless share bikes in Melbourne's inner city suburbs, with another 400 expected over the coming weeks.

The red electric bikes are the same as those introduced by Uber back in March, as part of a trial that coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lime acquired Uber's Jump division in June, with plans to relaunch the bikes. Earlier this month they were back on Melbourne's streets with the City of Port Phillip, City of Melbourne and City of Yarra taking part in the scheme.

Lauren Mentjox, Lime's government relations and public affairs manager, was confident the company's bikes wouldn't suffer the same fate as the yellow oBikes, which were regularly dumped in the Yarra and left up trees.

There are 400 Lime share bikes on Melbourne’s streets.Credit:Eddie Jim

The bikes can be unlocked with the Lime and Uber apps and cost $1 to ride plus 45¢ per minute – 15¢ more than during the first trial. Some bikes come with shared helmets attached for riders to use.

"It's probably a bit on the expensive side, I still think public transport is the way to go [for regular trips]," said Mr Pereira. "But for a recreational thing, on a day when you're not doing anything, they're great."

Ms Mentjox said there had been just over 1200 active riders in the first two weeks, which she described as a "great number" that would increase when more bikes become available.

As for the price rise, Ms Mentjox gave a number of reasons for the higher cost, including that the bikes were maintained regularly by social enterprise Good Cycles and that the batteries were swapped every couple of days.

Lord mayor Sally Capp is all in favour of the bikes.Credit:Eddie Jim

One complaint about oBikes, which did not need to be returned to a docking station, was that they took up space on footpaths when riders were finished with them.

City of Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp cited a memorandum of understanding between councils and Lime which required the e-bikes to be properly parked with no footpaths blocked.

"Our busiest footpaths have been designated as no parking zones and users will be fined if they leave bikes there," Cr Capp said.

"Previous bike share schemes launched in Melbourne did not have a local team overseeing bike locations and did not provide high quality electric bikes that were GPS trackable."

City of Port Phillip mayor Louise Crawford said council would monitor and evaluate the service throughout the trial to determine the best outcome for the community.

"We are anticipating electric bikes will appeal to both existing and new riders as a practical and accessible alternative transport choice," she said.

Melbourne's first bike share scheme, the so-called "blue bikes", was scrapped last year by the state government a decade after it was first introduced due to low use.

The low take-up of the bikes was initially attributed to mandatory helmet laws, with the government subsidising the sale of $5 helmets from city convenience stores in a bid to encourage greater uptake.

They were followed by the disastrous influx of oBikes, which drew the ire of local councils after the Singapore-based company introduced them onto Melbourne's streets without warning.

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