WAR ON....bicycles??

By Julia Moiso.

Cycling; it’s a common thing! And it’s been around for centuries. Almost everyone at some point in time in their life has ridden a bicycle. For some people, it may bring back sweet childhood memories, and for others it’s an element of everyday life. Bicycles are an alternative, sustainable and cheap mode of transport, a fitness and healthy lifestyle tool, a competitive sport and a popular recreational pastime. So why is there so much stigma against cyclists?

Recently, bicycle sharing systems have become more and more apparent in Australia, following successful European trends, as global companies like O-bike and ReddyGo have begun rolling out their dockless bicycle sharing system on our streets. And whilst you can practically hear the erupting applause from avid cyclists, environmentalists and planners - it appears that some others have very different outlooks on the matter, and not the good kind.

O-bikes have been a hot topic in the media recently and not for the positive reason you’d wish we would assume. O-bikes have caused controversy within metropolitan waterways, on public transport and have been subject to vandalism and other vilified activity.

A wild brawl has shocked commuters on a Melbourne train last weekend after an argument turned sour over a group of young men transporting their O-bikes on the train, when an older man aggressively confronted them in a violent and physical manner, as he was concerned that the bike would go “flying” if the train “suddenly slammed on the brakes”. Of course, it is known within the state that bikes are allowed on the train permitted they avoid the first carriage and also avoid travelling during busy peak hour times.

Similarly, closer to home here in sunny Sydney, groups of pranksters have managed to stack a large pile of the shared bikes in different locations around Sydney, particularly within the eastern suburbs and surrounding local parks and waterways over the past three months. And whilst a number of Councils in Sydney remain supportive of the bike scheme, it is causing headaches for managing Council authorities as Councils are now starting to enforce suggestive circumstances such as fines and stricter regulations like secure parking stations.

Figure 1: Stacked bicycles near Bondi Junction in Sydney. 
See, this is why we can’t have nice things!!

It’s clear that people have turned O-bike disposal into a sport of all sorts, with many currently resting at the bottom of the Yarra River, and others placed in decidedly inconvenient spots like perched up in a Sydney park tree.

Figure 2: O-bike perched up in a Sydney tree near Coogee Beach. 
But, with all things, crisis and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. And if I may restore both humour and faith in urban humanity, some absolute genius has managed to suspend an O-bike on a power line hovering mid-air in a laneway off Brunswick Street, sporting a rogue boy and his ethereal mate as passenger.

Figure 3: O-bike suspended mid-air replicating a scene from E.T the Extra Terrestrial.
Yes, this is exactly what it looks like, this is an ode to the iconic bike riding scene in E.T the Extra Terrestrial, an 80’s Speilberg CLASSIC.

This changes the bicycle sharing game, as baffling as it may be. I believe such schemes have contributed in myriad positive ways in creating a mode of accessible, cheap, reliable and sustainable transport to the public. But with that being said, there is still a concerning amount of non-acceptance of the shared bicycle system as demonstrated above.

Could it be that planners and government authorities alike need to push for more cycling public infrastructure like segregated bike lanes, more frequent parking stations, or grants or a rewards system for people who choose to travel sustainably via cycling?


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