Confessions of a CityCyclist

August 1, 2021


The patient is on life support and the plug is about to be pulled. After surviving just over half of its intended lifespan, the demise of Brisbane’s CityCycle network is imminent. I’ll be one of the few mourners. 

Brisbane City Council’s shared bicycle scheme started in 2010, under a 20-year contract with JCDecaux. For the princely sum of $5 a month, CityCycle members could use their public transport go-card to hire a bike for up to 30 minutes, all day, every day. Casual users could pay $2 for a one-day pass. That’s a lot cheaper than public transport or CBD parking, and much faster than walking. 

As an inner-city dweller, I embraced CityCycles. I’d walk out my front door, cross the road and pick up a bike. Then a quick ride down the hill to the Bicentennial Bikeway for a stunning trip beside the Brisbane River – cool breezes, the blue of the river (well, OK, in the right light it looks blue; otherwise brown), ferries, runners, walkers, prams, dogs – and the tingle of bells, calls of ‘on your right!’ and a rush of air (and a slight prick of fear) when the lycra-clad non-CityCyclists raced past. 

For bonus points, on the way home I could dock the bike down by the river – no need to push it back up the steep hill to my place. No maintenance; no commitment. What’s not to like?

CityCycles have been my preferred mode of transport to get to work in the CBD; theatres, art galleries, festivals, restaurants and functions at South Brisbane and South Bank; markets at Milton, West End and Riverside; and the City Botanic Gardens. I’ll miss them! 

There were adventures, too. I’d been to see The Taming of the Shrew at the Bille Brown Theatre in South Brisbane; the Queensland Reds had just defeated the (ACT) Brumbies in a nail-biting (so I’m told) rugby final at Suncorp Stadium, just across the bridge from the theatre. There were a few inebriated souls about – more from the footy than the theatre. As I arrived at the docking station to collect a bike, five large, drunk and aggressive men were trying to manhandle bikes out of the locked docking stations – without benefit of membership, I suspect. I was nearly bowled over by one fellow in his effort to extract a bike. I stood my ground, he apologised and I calmly (no-one could hear the pounding of my heart) took charge of my bike and wobbled gently over the bridge. Sigh of relief. Off the bridge and onto the bikeway. Ahead were three men, not entirely sober, one of whom was stark naked and jogging. I chuckled quietly and kept pedalling, but didn’t look back!

CityCycles were at their most popular in November 2018, with more than 71,000 trips, but the introduction of e-scooters in November 2018, followed by COVID-19, sounded the death knell as patronage plummeted. In 10 years of CityCycle operation, there were 4 million trips; e-scooters notched up the same number in just two and a half years. 

Decommissioning of CityCycles is well under way and will be completed by the end of 2021 – nine years earlier than originally planned. Bikes and docking stations will be recycled by JCDecaux.

But there is hope for those of us who mourn their passing! The Brisbane City Council has announced that 800 dockless e-bikes, operated by Beam and Neuron, will hit the streets from 22 July. 

So now I’ll be able to ride up that hill to get home…

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