Dockless bicycles are trashing Sydney and Melbourne streets... and rivers

oBikes dumped on the top of a bus stop shelter in Melbourne. (Twitter/DanielRDup)

Two bicycle sharing startups are making waves in Australia’s two largest cities, but it seems some users are taking the freedom of dockless cycling too far.

Singapore company oBike’s yellow bicycles and Australian rival ReddyGo’s red bikes are increasingly taking over the streets, after they launched in Australia over the winter. Sydney now has about 1,500 bikes from both startups, with Melbourne hosting more than 1250 just from oBike.

The attraction for users is that the bicycles do not need to be returned to a docking station but are fitted with GPS units so that they can be parked anywhere for the next rider to locate with a mobile app.

While both companies clearly instruct customers to park the bicycles in safe and legal locations where they won’t obstruct pedestrians and other transport, the honour system is having some teething issues in both Sydney and Melbourne.

On social media, there are reports of bikes being left on the footpath or dangerously close to tram and train tracks — and transport interchange hubs like train stations and bus stops crowded with abandoned bicycles.

There have even been photos of oBikes left up in trees and on roofs, while in Melbourne on Tuesday oBike contractors retrieved 42 bicycles from the bottom of the Yarra River, after users dumped the two-wheelers into the water.

“I think it’s pretty low,” said Jason Wittman, one of the contractors.

“This company comes to Australia to provide a service and some people have got nothing better to do than throw them into the water.”

The retrieval operation came after Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle last month threatened to ban oBike from the city unless “the clutter” was resolved.

A City of Sydney spokesperson told Business Insider that while the council supported bicycle sharing, it had concerns about “impacts on the public domain” and have met with oBike and ReddyGo.

“We have stressed that safety and accessibility on footpaths is a priority,” said the spokesperson.

“The lord mayor wrote to the premier in June asking the [NSW] government to urgently develop an appropriate response to managing bike share. The premier referred the letter to the minister for roads and minister for innovation. It is our understanding Transport for NSW is working out its approach.”

Business Insider contacted ReddyGo but had not heard back at the time of writing. An oBike spokesperson acknowledged that some users have acted inappropriately, but said bike sharing was in in its early days.

“We have had a few who abused our bikes either by dismantling them or throwing them into canals. This was disappointing,” oBike head of marketing Chethan Rangaswamy told Business Insider.

A post shared by ReddyGo (@reddygosydney) on

“Bike-sharing is still in its infancy stage now. As such, many cyclists are still not fully aware of the correct behaviours required to develop a socially gracious and courteous community of riders. This leads to issues such as the indiscriminate parking and vandalism. We are committed to engaging the public for ongoing education on cycling etiquette.”

Rangaswamy said the company still believed bike sharing could integrate seamlessly into the existing public transport system.

“It will operate as an essential but complementary service to the entire transportation network. We want to make sure we have a sustainable relationship with our users, public and the local authorities.”

The dumped bicycle phenomenon has even inspired a satirical “oBike fishing” video that has garnered more than 200,000 views on Facebook:

NOW READ: China is struggling to contain its epic bike-sharing boom

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.