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Victorian Road Minister Tim Pallas announces that RACV has won a contract to provide a bicycle hire service in Melbourne. Similar schemes elsewhere in the world attract advertising. That racks in Melbourne won't have advertising other than for the RACV and acknowledging government funding, attracts ridicule.
Read the Bicycle Feasibility Study - Part 1 and Part 2.
ROADS group the RACV will run a $5 million ''free'' bicycle scheme in Melbourne's city centre, which will be branded with promotions for the State Government in the lead-up to next year's state election.
Roads Minister Tim Pallas yesterday announced that the RACV had won the three-year contract to operate the scheme for the Government. It won the contract ahead of Veolia Transport, the hapless firm behind dumped train operator Connex.
The scheme - derided by one transport expert as little more than a publicity stunt that would do nothing to reduce car use in central Melbourne - will see 600 bikes installed at 50 special bike racks dotted around Melbourne's CBD.
The bike racks will be no more than 500 metres apart, to encourage users to take one of the bikes instead of a car, taxi or the city's crowded public transport network for short trips.
The bikes and bike racks will be installed in mid-2010, Mr Pallas said.
Users will have to pay a small membership fee - $2.50 a day or up to $50 a year - which will enable them to release one of the bikes out of automatic racks.
Users then have the bike for up to half an hour for free, and can return it to any of the 50 racks. Those who fail to return a bike within half an hour will be penalised heavily.
Bikes returned after two hours will cost $20, and bikes kept for more than 10 hours will cost $370. The charge will likely be deducted from a credit card, which users will have to register if they want to use the system.
Spur-of-the-moment decisions to use a bike will be hampered by the requirement for all users to wear a helmet. ''Initially we'll be encouraging people to bring their own helmets with them,'' Mr Pallas said.
Similar schemes exist in many cities internationally (although few have compulsory helmet laws). The biggest is in Paris, where 16,000 bicycles are at hundreds of bike racks placed around the city's inner suburbs. When the scheme launched in 2007 it was a public relations success, but in its first year more than half the bikes were vandalised or stolen.
A feasibility study for the Melbourne scheme last year, by engineers SKM, found that at least 15 per cent of bikes would be lost in the first year.
RMIT transport planning lecturer Paul Mees said there was no evidence free bike schemes reduced car use. ''These things everywhere in the world have proven to be nothing more than publicity stunts,'' he said.
The Paris scheme is run by advertising giant JCDecaux, which in return gets free outdoor ad space on bus stops and other council property. Mr Pallas said there would be no advertising on the bikes, other than for the RACV and ''recognition the State Government is making a $5 million contribution''.
Asked if this was advertising for the Brumby Government, Mr Pallas said: ''I'm not sure that would constitute an ad, but it would brand the Government as a provider of the service together with the RACV.''
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