[Updated Wednesday 15 November] We’re told OnzO now has a contact number: 0800 646696 for any enquiries. Good to hear they’ve addressed that gap in communications!
Were you left boggling last Monday to find Central Auckland flooded with black and yellow OnzO bikes? We were too!
In case you haven’t been in town since Monday, we’re talking about the highly visible fleet of small, single-speed, dockless public hire bikes, parked with helmets around bike racks in the City.
— Andrew W ? (@aw_nz) November 4, 2017
Across the week, more bikes were delivered to Devonport, where I live, and were quickly making their way up Lake Rd to Takapuna. I hear they’re appearing around other close-in suburbs and making their way along main roads and into town centres all around the Isthmus.
I've been checking Onzo daily.
I honestly didn't expect the bikes to spread like this! pic.twitter.com/0KJkcSRYGg
— Auckland Urban Dev (@AKLUrbanDev) November 5, 2017
Where did they come from?
I wish we had more info about the background of OnzO to share with you, but they’re a bit mysterious. Auckland Transport was just as surprised as the rest of us when the yellow flash mob arrived.
According to Simon Wilson at the Spinoff:
The bikes appeared on Sunday and the company got in touch with AT on Monday. No prior contact at all. “Similar companies have set up in the same manner all over the world,” says King. “Set up and then ask permission.” On Facebook, OnzO says the scheme is a “trial” until the end of November. OnzO is a trading name for Pacific on Wheels Ltd, a registered company based in Te Atatu, with a sole director, Xinyu Hu.
Since then, AT has learnt that a second dockless company is likely to land in Auckland in December, possibly with e-bikes. Of course, dockless bikes have flooded overseas cities since 2014, so you could say we should have expected to see them in Auckland before now – especially as many cities have been struggling to cope with the sudden arrival of similar schemes.
AT was meeting with OnzO on Friday, and we look forward to hearing what they learned. Here’s what AT tells us about the wider picture for bikeshare management over the coming months:
- This month, NZTA drafted a Code of Practice based on best practice from overseas cities, with the intention that it be adopted and modified by councils nationally to ensure that any bike share schemes that come to New Zealand, have bikes that remain maintained and do not obstruct the public realm.
- We are in the process now of working with Auckland Council’s Compliance team and Auckland Transport’s legal team to ensure the Code of Practice aligns with Auckland Council’s bylaw for street trading.
- We will provide a further update once the Code of Practise is complete. This does not affect Auckland Transport’s work towards providing its own cycle share scheme, and we will continue to work with providers to find the best way forward for Auckland.
Have you tried the bikes? What do you think?
Naturally we’re keen to hear what you think about dockless bike companies landing and spreading around Auckland.
- How do the bikes feel, and how do they ride? Are the brakes effective, and do they feel safe to ride?
- What sorts of trips are you taking that you wouldn’t have taken before?
- Are they being moved around to rebalance the supply? Single-speed suggests they’re likely to end up at the bottom of hills. We hear people may be taking them home overnight, because once they’re parked they’re ‘off the clock’ – is that likely?
- We’re also curious about your experience of the transactions. There are suggestions these kinds of companies are more interested in gathering data than in providing mobility as such. The logic is, if the ride is free, or near enough, then riders will be paying in other ways.
- On the other hand – if these bikes are giving Aucklanders a chance to taste the potential value of a really decent bike share, is that a reasonable trade-off?
The good, the bad, and the unforeseen consequences
On one level, you could say it’s great seeing more people scooting around town on bikes – like the young woman who whizzed past me in the Wynyard Quarter on Thursday, looking laid-back and happy.
There’s plenty of chat on social media, where people have been quick to get the fundamental proposition of bikeshare: it’s handy, and it’s ‘faster than walking.’ Here’s just one example:
“First time on a bike in 20 years. Brilliant. Totally convenient: Scan cell phone to unlock. Ride. Leave anywhere. Flick switch to lock. 25c for 15m. Take bus back uphill. Oh and also worth mentioning for context: I’m a 65-yr-old in a pinstriped suit. (And btw my 20 yr-old colleague immediately signed up and rode down to catch her train just now).”
But there’s more to it than just getting more people biking. We know that some of our partners in the bike-hire business around town are hurting, as they have been investing time for years in retail and hire premises and waiting patiently to learn if they will have a part to play in AT’s plans for public bike-share in Auckland.
There’s also the parking issue. More bikes in the central city and close-in suburbs will place pressure on bike parking facilities around town and local centres. Although the OnzO bikes are freestanding, we’re already seeing them being parked between existing bike racks, blocking access for locals who want to park and lock their bikes. AT needs to step up and deal with this, as bike theft is rampart and bike racks are few and far between – where they exist at all.
We know these new renegade operators are nimble, and not interested in waiting to get the green light from local transport agencies. We’ve been known to express frustration before when local transport agencies are slow to respond to the fast-moving, disruptive and internationally-driven world of biking – but we’re always keen to work with AT and NZTA to improve things.
We’ll be sharing any updates we get from AT about OnzO, and will be discussing it at our monthly AT meeting in just over a week.
So we’d love you to get in touch with your experiences and insights! What issues do you foresee if similar bikeshare schemes arrive in the next few months? And, having tested this particular bikeshare, what does it tell you about what an ideal bikeshare might look like for Auckland?