Wellington trials public e-bike sharing

  • December 20, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Wellington City Council in New Zealand is to trial a public e-bike share scheme.

The unanimous decision by the council’s Kōrau Tūāpapa environment and infrastructure committee means Wellington’s existing e-scooter providers Flamingo and Beam will each be able to offer up to 150 e-bikes on Wellington streets from early next year, allowing people to give them a try over the warmer months. Operators will start with 50 bikes each and add more based on demand up to the 150 cap.

The bikes will have helmets and will be hireable, locked and unlocked via apps just as with the shared e-scooters.

Operators and users will need to demonstrate the bikes are generally being left in safe or designated spots, and used in a way that keeps Wellington streets and footpaths as safe as possible.

More parking bays for share scheme and privately-owned bikes and scooters will be installed around the city soon. These will be on the road not the footpath. Share e-bike and e-scooter users will be encouraged to leave the vehicles safely parked in these or other designated locations, and will get discounts if they do.

The companies already warn and sometimes ban repeat offenders for unsafe parking or riding practices. Advances in geo-fencing technology also mean the operators can quickly and easily add more areas where it’s not possible to leave or ride scooters and bikes. The technology also lets them respond to issues by reducing and controlling the speed bikes and scooters can go in certain locations.

The trial will be evaluated in mid-2023 and considered by councillors in about October.

Provided the trial is going well, it is expected the operators will be able to continue to provide the e-bikes until March 2024 when the existing licences to operate e-scooters come up for renewal.

“Share schemes like this are great because they make e-bike use possible for more people as we create a city where climate-positive lifestyles are more affordable and accessible,” said Wellington mayor Tory Whanau. “There is good evidence from other cities on how share e-bikes are used. Testing them here will highlight the local potential and allow more permanent arrangements to be tailored specifically for Te Whanganui-a-Tara. For those who enjoy the experience, and can afford it, share hire can also be a catalyst to buying an e-bike of their own.”

Committee chair councillor Tamatha Paul said she was looking forward to the trial and what could be learnt.

“One of the things we’ll be looking very closely at in the monitoring and reviews is how accessibility is being prioritised,” she said. “This is one of the really awesome and fun things we are doing and a big part of our transition to a low carbon transport system. It is part of the big picture of how we can move more people with fewer vehicles, and has synergies with our Paneke Pōneke plan to build a connected citywide bike network.”

Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton already have e-scooters and e-bikes available.

Experience in New Zealand and elsewhere shows that e-bikes are often used by people who don’t use e-scooters. They can be a more appealing option for longer trips, and relatively low complaint levels indicate most people use them in a responsible way.

Like e-scooters, they will be available from suburban locations in the morning so people could pick one up and come into the city. They will also be available outside the railway station so people who have commuted in by train or bus have more options about how they make the next leg of their journey.