You're About To See A Lot Fewer Share Bikes Around For Good Reason

Impounded bikes will be given to homeless and disadvantaged people in the area.

What you need to know
  • Multiple companies have recently dropped share bikes around Sydney
  • 6600 share bikes were taken each day in Sydney in January and February
  • Bikes are often left blocking paths, littering parks, or even thrown into waterways
  • Inner West council will begin impounding bikes and charging operators for release

Sydney's Inner West council will impound share bicycles which are blocking footpaths or left damaged around their area, and charge the companies that own the bikes hundreds of dollars to have them released.

The council's mayor said unclaimed impounded bikes would be given to the homeless or disadvantaged.

Residents of busy Sydney suburbs have reported frustration and fury at the sudden deluge of share bikes that landed in their neighbourhoods seemingly overnight. The bikes, able to be rented cheaply via a phone app, are owned by one of several companies, painted in distinctive colours of red, yellow, silver or orange.

In contrast to the popular bikes able to be rented in cities like New York, London or Amsterdam which are held at central docking points, Sydney's share bikes are able to be left wherever the last rider finishes their journey, meaning popular streets, footpaths, commuter areas, tourist attractions and parks are often filled with the vehicles. Some bikes have ended up in rivers, creeks or even thrown into trees.

Darcy Byrne, mayor of the Inner West council -- a large local government area that takes in the suburbs of Balmain, Tempe, Newtown, Leichhardt, Ashfield and Marrickville -- said on Tuesday share bike operators were "on notice" and ordered stray or damaged bikes would be impounded by rangers.

"In the absence of action from share bike operators, Council is undertaking a bike blitz to remove dangerous and badly parked bicycles throughout the Inner West," Byrne said.

"Having offered them the carrot, we now have to use the stick."

Figures published by Randwick council claimed more than 6600 share bike trips were taken each day in inner Sydney in January and February.

Byrne said that, once impounded, share bike operators would have to pay an $80 fee for the impounding notice, $65 an hour for a council worker to transport the bikes to a depot, and $16 a day in bike storage before their vehicle would be released.

Just last week, the NSW state government announced new powers for local councils to manage share bikes, as well as introducing new minimum standards for companies around safety, parking, and forcing operators to establish designated parking areas for bikes.

The Inner West council's decision follows long discussion among Sydney councils about how to deal with share bike troubles. In March, Waverley council said it would start impounding bikes left blocking paths, while six councils -- including Waverley and Inner West -- began working in December on standard regulations for operators to follow.

However, Byrne said operators had not responded properly to the regulations, and that his council had been forced to take more drastic action.

"We’ve proposed a simple set of guidelines for the operators, but they haven’t done enough to lift their game," he said.

However, Byrne said he isn't expecting any huge financial windfall from the impounding blitz. Instead, the council plans to redistribute the bikes among the area's needy residents.

“We know operators haven’t been collecting bikes that have been impounded elsewhere. Rather than putting them into land fill, we will be looking to repurpose unclaimed bikes and give them to homeless and disadvantaged people," he said.

The mayor is calling on the NSW government to take action on the share bike issue, asking for state legislation to be updated to better deal with the troubles faced by local councils.

"It’s time the [government] stepped up to the plate on bikes, make the changes to legislation that the councils have asked for and ensure share bikes are properly regulated in this city," he said.