Infrastructure Briefs: Share Scheme Operators Close While Others Expand

Two Share Scheme Companies Close Down Australian Operations

It appears that two share scheme businesses have closed in Australia, although we have only received direct confirmation from one of these – Airbike

Airbike was a small, Sydney-based bicycle share scheme business, that was active in Canberra for at least the past three years and more recently in Sydney.

Back in 2021 we reviewed their Canberra bikes in this article. In late November, Airbike directly responded to our enquiry and confirmed that they had closed, but did not give further details.

Meanwhile, we understand that that Bird has also ceased operations in Australia, although they have not responded to our request for direct confirmation.

Bird had share fleets in Perth, Sydney and Hervey Bay, commencing the Hervey Bay operation with a trial from mid-2021.

At one stage at its peak in 2021, the USA-based Bird had a market valuation of $3 billion (Australian dollars US $2.3 billion) but on 22nd September 2023 it announced that it had been suspended from trading on the New York Stock Exchange because its market capital had fallen below the minimum threshold of US$15 million.

Bird acquired another struggling share scheme company, Spin, on 19th September 2023.

Bird has made an unsuccessful attempt to expand into direct sales of its e-bikes to consumers, in addition to their bike and scooter share operations.

Beam Continues to Expand Across Australia & NZ

Beam has made several recent announcements about further expansion. On 30th November 2023 it announced that it had commenced operations in Darwin deploying up to 750 e-scooters, e-bikes and seated e-scooters.

The release emphasised Beams safety features including:

  • A pre-trip in-app safety briefing for every rider, featuring instructions on how to park and ride safely.
  • An in-app Beam Safety Quiz with free credits offered to encourage rider education.
  • Beam Safety Ambassadors patrolling high-traffic areas, promoting safe riding and parking.
  • A three-strikes policy, with riders facing suspension for bad riding and parking offences. Those caught riding dangerously or breaking the law face permanent bans.

Beam also said that its cognitive-based drink riding deterrence test, ‘Rider Check’ would be used in various nightlife areas, designed to deter riders from riding under the influence.

Between certain hours on Friday and Saturday nights, Beam riders attempting to start a trip will need to complete the Rider Check test designed to test the rider’s cognitive response. The test requires riders to tap either the left or right side of two images displayed on the screen.

Those who fail the test after three attempts will have their access to starting Beam trips temporarily paused for several hours, and be directed to an alternative method of transportation such as a taxi or rideshare.

City of Darwin Lord Mayor, Kon Vatskalis said, “We are excited to have Beam operational in the city, providing sustainable and convenient transport options for residents and visitors.

“We know safety is an important element of micromobility, and we are very pleased to see Beam make a commitment to rider safety through their three-strikes policy, designed to enforce safe and responsible riding, as well as the ‘Rider Check’ to deter riding while under the influence of alcohol.

“The provision of electric vehicles around our city supports our Movement Strategy which aims to make it easier for people to move around the city by improving streetscapes, infrastructure and connectivity while helping to reduce the impact of transport on the environment.”

Meanwhile on 4th December Beam launched in the NZ city of Tauranga with 400 e-scooters. On 8th December the company commenced operations in the NSW coastal tourist town of Forster-Tuncurry with 150 e-scooters.

An Australian Rail Trail Renaissance?

After years of struggle to get government approval and funding for construction, particularly in NSW, it appears that rail trails are finally gathering steam. Australia has hundreds of kilometres of disused rail lines, mainly in quiet rural areas where the towns along the old lines are often struggling to remain viable.

Converting these to rail trails, not just for use by cyclists, but also for walkers and horse riders is a proven way to revitalise these towns.

As we reported here earlier this year, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail in north eastern NSW, which opened its first stage after many years of advocacy by dedicated local volunteers, immediately doubled the pre-construction estimates of patronage.

Now other towns along this potentially multi-day ride length rail trail have jumped on board. According to the latest Rail Trail Connections magazine, published by Rail Trails Australia, a further section from Casino to Bentley is due to open early in 2024. Even the previously reluctant Byron Bay has seen the potential and now supports the project.

Meanwhile the Monaro Rail Trail, south of Canberra, is due to start construction in early 2024 and the Great Southern Rail Trail in Gippsland, Victoria is due for completion of its final stage, to create a 130km trail in total.

In South Australia a recently completed section of rail trail from Wirrabara to Booleroo Central has created an 80km total trail length from Laura to Wilmington on the eastern side of the Southern Flinders Ranges.

This trail links up with the recently opened Epic Mountain Bike Trail at Mount Remarkable near Melrose, which rises to a peak of 960 metres.

Rail Trails Australia which is a volunteer-led, not for profit organisation that promotes all aspects of rail trails, is also enjoying growth. In their recent annual report, they noted that their membership has grown from 500 to 1,270.

After a major investment in upgrading their website they reported 246,000 visits in 2022 and their total financial year income, which is comprised of membership, donations, merchandise sales and advertising, increased by just over $11,000 for 2022-23 to $92,721.

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