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Electric bike share launches in Sydney despite failure of other schemes

A new share bike scheme has launched in Sydney – and wants to expand to Melbourne and Brisbane – despite three similar companies folding in the past year.

Lime, a US-owned company, launched its bright green electric-assisted bikes in Sydney on Wednesday, placing 300 around the CBD.

The company, which has found success in the US and Europe, and which also recently launched in New Zealand, is confident it will stick around, despite three bike-sharing companies all recently failing in Australia.

Singaporean giant oBike dramatically collapsed in June, leaving thousands of bikes in its wake, and customers feeling ripped off and unable to access refunds.

In the space of a few weeks, the company withdrew from Melbourne, Sydney and even shuttered operations in Singapore, where it was founded.

The app then deleted the button that allowed customers to request refunds and became uncontactable. The company’s 2017 annual report revealed the Singaporean operation made a S$4.25m loss that year.

A few weeks later, competitors ReddyGo and ofo also exited Australia.

ReddyGo’s founder, Donald Tang, told Guardian Australia, before the company left Sydney, that bike sharing could work in Australia if it was given more support.

“We still believe bike share is a good model to fill the gaps of traditional public transport,” he said. “To make this model successful we also have to understand that, apart from operators’ responsibility, we also need support from other parts of this society.”

Dockless bike-sharing works by using a GPS smartphone app that users download. For a fee, customers then unlock a bike near them, ride it and then leave it wherever their journey ends, instead of returning it to a fixed docking station.

Unlike previous Australian bike shares, Lime’s bikes are electric, which makes riding them easier and quicker. The company claims they can reach speeds of 24km/h, even with hilly terrain.

Each bike uses a lithium battery that will be recharged every two days. Lime has hired a team of 50 people to monitor the bikes and recharge them.

In a press release, a spokesman said Lime had succeeded in cities “similar to Sydney, such as Seattle”.

“Sydney’s need for innovative transport solutions … gives us confidence we will see high uptake of Lime electric bikes within the community,” he added.

The company also makes electric scooters, which it plans to introduce in Brisbane. In October, it launched 1,000 scooters in Auckland and 700 in Christchurch. It has also launched a small-scale scooter trial at Melbourne’s Monash University.

Currently, Chinese company Mobike continues to operate share bikes in Sydney.

While Lime began with 300 bikes, at launch oBike had 1,250 bikes in Melbourne and 1,000 in Sydney.

Broken or abandoned bikes quickly became a source of annoyance for residents, and an incident where 40 bikes were fished out of the Yarra River became a viral sensation.

Melbourne city council later announced it would start impounding the bikes and charge oBike $3,000 per bike for littering.

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