[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.

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.

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?
A lone OnzO on the side of the road in Pt Chev. What’s its next destination?

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.

The bikes are basic but the uptake is swift, and generally positive, ranging from skeptical to instant convert.

OnzO bikes blending in outside Ponsonby Central.

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.

OnzO bikes parked between racks at Windsor Reserve today. The Reserve playground will be busy today – where will the locals park their bikes? It’s especially ironic these Onzo bikes are parked within a stone’s throw of the Devonport ferry terminal, where Bike Auckland has been trying for over a year to work with AT and other Council agencies to preserve and enhance the well-subscribed bike parking.

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?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, or over on our Facebook page. We’re also open to direct emails if that suits you better. 

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  • Lisa

    The T&Cs state that you can only move them by cycling normally – which would eliminate transport by train, ferry, car. I doubt it would be rnforced though, unless they start leaving Auckland altogether.

  • Bbc

    Onzo shows just how slow and inept AT is when it’s anything to do with their non core business of cars and car parking. This scheme launched overnight with a bunch of likely very cheap bikes from China and a very basic app, in comparison we have AT saying 6 months ago we may get one from them at the end of 2019/2020.

  • Ridiculous. Renting a bike made by Chinese slaves that will be in landfill in 3 weeks makes all the rates I pay to the council feel good.
    Just ridiculous.

    • Timmy

      This is a private company, unendorsed and unaffiliated with Auckland Transport

  • John

    Seems good to me. Love the agile approach. Just need to ensure sufficient redistribution and maintenance of the bikes.
    Keen to try it, but I already have my own bike

  • Moses

    Tried one this morning. Way too small. Like riding a kid’s bike. Hopeless. That’s $9.65 I won’t see again.

    • Timmy

      There’s an option in the app to Refund the deposit (Swipe the left menu -> Account -> Refund). Let us know if it works?

  • Nathan Griffiths

    Sadly AT are still miles behind the curve on public cycling – as this article mentions public bike parking is a joke in many locations. I don’t know if this bike scheme has a robust enough model to last long term, but judging by the uptake in town it’s pretty popular with commuters. I’m going to give it a try myself.

  • Jamie

    I’m a bike commuter anyway, but if I take a lift into town I’m then stuck on foot. Not anymore! The ability to pick up an leave the bike almost anywhere, and the incredibly low price gives onzo a clear advantage over bike rental companies. Shows how a serious investor and a great app can make a profound impact virtually overnight. Although I’d rather my geared bike any day over the relaxed stance fixy, the seat was comfortable and the brakes felt great. Plus it has a bell and lights. Big fan of the movement to mainstream bike use in Auckland city. Hopefully AT can catch up with the relevant infrastructure!

  • Kai Crow

    I commute with my bike on the ferry and have been trying the Onzo bikes at the town end of my commute as an alternative to taking my bike on the boat. They work pretty well, but do have their disadvantages:

    Can be a problem if there’s not a bike nearby for the return journey, which in itself is expected, but what makes it hard is the fact that the app is often slow to refresh so there may be bikes showing on the map but they’re not actually there.

    I do wonder how people who aren’t regular cyclists will find the single speed in Auckland – it seems a reasonable gearing to me, a bit too low when on the flat, but that’s probably needed to get up the hills for most people.

    The company are just as aloof to users as they are to AT – had a few issues with rentals a couple of times and logged a customer support request through their app but never had a reply. Interesting move for a business that’s in trial mode – you’d think they’d be bending over backwards to connect with and educate customers, but then they don’t seem to do anything normally do they.

    On safety and quality of the bikes – they seem alright, although it took me several rides to notice the brakes are around the wrong way for kiwis – front on the left, back on the right – the saving grace to that is that they’re drum brakes so don’t lock-up easily, therefore hard to end up throwing yourself over the bars by using the wrong brake 😀

    Overall, I’d give them a 6 out of 10 – nice to see someone trying these things, have had great use out of similar schemes overseas, and always wished we’d get something like this running properly in Auckland but they definitely have a way to go at the moment.

    • Paula

      Nice review, thanks – I just thought to mention that they are pretty good at replying on the facebook page
      Cheers

      • Kai Crow

        Yeah, thanks I did eventually find their facebook page and got a reply saying that they don’t currently have the ability to reply to feedback through the app, only receive it. Seems odd, but they do say they’re working on it. Here’s hoping the service improves. I’ve had the frustrating experience of walking a couple of blocks to get a bike a couple of times lately and get there and find despite it still showing on the map that there is no bike in sight. Maybe people stealing them or locking them within private parking areas out of view or something?

  • Miles Brown

    I’m using them almost every day from Westmere to the city or vice versa, sometimes both. Fine for moderate hills like Symonds Street or Richmond Rd – no way even Lance Armstrong at his most doped up would get up College Hill or Parnell Rise on one. The real problem is the app – it seems to be on a four to six hour delay, so that it frequently shows an icon at a particular spot, but there’s no bike there, or you find a bike somewhere, but when you check the app, there’s no icon at that spot. Also, no communication from the company, so it might be worthwhile frequent users setting up a FB page to discuss etiquette – like leaving them where other people can easily access them, such as bus stops, train stations or shopping areas, and locking the helmets securely – I’ve found a couple of bikes down back streets, and some with the helmets stolen. But overall they’re a great start, and I hope they continue past their stated trial period of the end of November.