John Wakefield standing before the dockless bikes impounded in Bondi on the first day of release. Photo: supplied.

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By Addie Morton

Waverley Mayor John Wakefield has succeeded where no other Councillor has before. He has taken a stand against dockless bikes.

There are four companies operating in Waverley and the broad inner city, and around 10% of the bikes in circulation are damaged or a public safety hazard.

Wakefield can see the problem just by walking around the city. He says there are large numbers of damaged bikes blocking road surfaces and footpaths. While it is common to see a few bikes piled together, Wakefield has seen up to 15 damaged bikes clustered together in piles.

On 5 March, in just three hours Waverley Council picked up 42 bikes that were no longer operational in the Bondi area.

“We don’t want to have to do this,” Wakefield says. “We want the operators to clean up on their own.”

While Wakefield supports the logic of the shared bike system, he believes the Council could allocate their resources to other causes.

“It’s in everyone’s interests to improve transport in Waverley and to increase the number of alternative transport options here, but bike companies need to take responsibility for the management of their bikes and to ensure they don’t become a problem for residents, businesses, pedestrians and other road users,” he said.

“So we have undertaken this clean-up in order to get this scheme to work.”

Bike companies were put on notice last week to remove abandoned bikes from public places.
While they had complied to a certain extent, dozens of bikes have already been removed and taken to impoundment. So far, bikes have been removed from footpaths and roads as well as pools, cliffs and trees.

“It’s an unfortunate use of ratepayers’ money to have to clean up this mess but if bike businesses won’t do it, Council will,” he said.

Bikes will be deemed suitable and left where they are if they are standing upright with a bicycle helmet attached and are not damaged or a public safety hazard. If not, they will be taken to an impoundment where scheme operators can pick them up for a $70 fee per bike. If they are not claimed, they will be recycled.

While Waverley Council has begun to address the problem, the city of Sydney has been less responsive. On Monday 19 February, Councillor Kerryn Phelps introduced a motion at City of Sydney Council meeting to better manage dockless bikes in Sydney. Councillor Phelps’ motion would have introduced dedicated parking spaces for share bikes which would have been paid for by bike operators. The motion was lost 6, 4 with Lord Mayor voting against the motion.

A spokesperson for the Lord Mayor explained the overturned motion stating, “This motion was put forward without any practical consideration of whether it was actually feasible.”

The motion would require costly docking stations, underground cables and designated spaces which would be “an expensive waste of public money for a dockless bike sharing model that is fundamentally incompatible with docking stations.”

The spokesperson says the staff is meeting regularly with all bike share operators to work through issues raised by residents, visitors and business.

“The City of Sydney has established guidelines for operators and is working with other councils to ensure the operators are informing their customers about correct bike parking and responsible riding,” she said.

Wakefield would like to see Waverley Council form contractual relationships with one or two operators with conditions that would require them to maintain their product in a tidy way. However, there is no law from the state government that allows the council to hand over contracts because any operator can put their product up on the streets.

“We as a Council and I personally support bike use,” Wakefield says. “We want this to work and want it to benefit the community of Waverley to give them another option for environmentally friendly travel.”

It’s now up to the operators to make it work.