Travelling to and from Melbourne’s velodrome for the Track World Champs a few weeks back, my eye was caught by banks of bright blue hire bikes dotted around the streets.
The Aussie city uses the same Bixi bikes as the London scheme, but from what I saw, they don’t get the same level of use.
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Although there was often a couple of free docking points at each station, most of the time they were full. The hire price was minimal, and, as far as I could tell, payment was a lot simpler than the London scheme, so I considered getting one to ride to the velodrome on.
Then I remembered: in Australia it is against the law to ride a bike without a helmet.
Consider the absurdity of that for a minute. Had I jumped on a bike and pedalled off down the road I would have become a criminal. And that has to be the biggest deterrent to using Melbourne’s hire bikes. No one walks around carrying a bike helmet in case they want to make an impromptu bike journey.
At each station there was a poster telling you how far it was to a shop where you could get a $5 helmet. Firstly, I doubt a $5 (£3) helmet is going to protect me on Melbourne’s busy roads, and secondly, I’m not going to spend 20 minutes and $5 so I can then make a free, five-minute bike journey.
It’s absurd in the extreme.
Simon Richardson is deputy editor of Cycling Weekly