Well if getting my ego stroked by Campbell Newman before he resigned wasn't enough, I was contacted by the office of Councillor Margaret de Wit (Council's Chairman, Public & Active Transport Committee) shortly after Bike Week to discuss CityCycle: specifically my thoughts to improve it.
Unfortunately, after reading up on Councillor de Wit she went and got shifted to another portfolio due to the reshuffle post Newman. As such I met with the fresh faced Councillor for Walter Taylor Ward, Julian Simmonds, who is the new Council's Chairman, Public & Active Transport Committee on his second day of his new job.
In preparation I had 22 discussion points on how to engage the public and garner more subscribers/users.
In no particular order they were:
- Get bins at stations to stop the rubbish dump in baskets. Unsightly and offputting.
- No 10pm shut down, even 11pm would be better. CityCycle is far safer than waiting on the side of the street for Translink to hopefully show up. What is the point of riding to the movies if you can't get home without standing in the dark for 30 mins waiting for a bus.
- Lack of dedicated bike lanes in the network. How can you encourage people to ride when the perception is that it isn't safe to do so.
- What is the point of the fake BAZ's. They don't make it safer, and some of them are in dangerous areas were a bike lane would be far more beneficial. It gives a false sense of security.
- The alternative is to ride on the pavements, however this isn't possible as some corners in the network (especially by stations) don't even have a ramp. More than once I been verbally abused by pedestiran for riding on the pavement.
- Commit to a no helmet trial for a month to three months to see if it will make a difference. Translation: shut up the anti-helmet agenda.
- 3 month subsidised subscription during winter. No reason why we can't do a half price for 3 months and get people on the bikes. The more out there and seen, the greater the awareness and the safer it is for all cyclists.
- People say they want one integrated card, though I just think this is another excuse. It is SO cheap, it doesn't matter if you don't use it. 18cents a day people.
- Communication. We have JCD hardly talking to us, and BCC responding to Citycycle enquiries via Twitter. Talk to the subscribers. Have delays communicated. Why are some stations taking longer etc? Why don't we get updates via email? I know they tried once and it was a debacle, but really... Why doesn't JCD engage their users? Why does JCD make it so hard to speak to them? eg Non-users wanting to communicate can't use their on line contact form (unless they work it out like Sue Hetherington). It can take 2.5 weeks to get a response to an enquiry.
- Redesign the website. Actually make it easy to use. It is atrocious and so non-user friendly. Finding the right information shouldn't take more than 2 clicks.
- Explore non-punitive 30 minute + hires. Maybe everyone gets 10 a year - a grace of 15 minutes. If you are a continuous offender, then start with the charges.
- More technicians to service the bikes. Ringing the bell and rotating the gears isn't servicing them. The guards are bending and catching on the pedals, baskets are squished. I am still sitting at a 15% faulty bike rate. That is more than one in ten - how can you get people on board with faulty bikes. If 200 odd ppl are taking trips a day - that is 20+ faulty bikes/poor experiences.
- Better management of the busy stations. The system is all integrated, so why do I have to call to get bikes delivered to my local stations? They know it is empty, yet they don't move the bikes around nearly enough. Also, why close down the bulk of the stations for football games? I know they want ease for pedestrians, but surely you want people to be riding to the games. After the game last night (Monday Night Football), why were high usage stations still closed after 9am on Tuesday morning? The only stations near Roma Street that were open looked fully racked. Too bad if you were wanting to catch a train - you would have to had dropped it at the Cycle Centre, KGS or Barracks.
- Advertising by stations only. I can suck up the eyesores, like I do bus stations, but IMHO, no station, no advertising. People are anti-advertising already, but why can JCD get their ads up in a location that still hasn't had its station built?
- Another campaign. We have had the wettest summer on record. Now it is cooler, and drier, have a campaign about the scheme - tie it into that nifty 50% offer.
- Quality control and training for the Call Centre as it is either great or hopeless. You shouldn't be able to call three times and get three different answers (not counting the "I don't know, let me run downstairs and find out" responses).
- Respond to all the negative press. We know that the papers and tv hate cyclists already, CityCycle is like Easter and Christmas rolled into one. Why, when they do yet another negative story, is there noone from council being interviewed and quoted? The media complained that only 224 trips were taken a day, why didn't the Council say "That is fantastic! That is 224 people not on the bus from New Farm or West End in or out of the CBD!"
- Don't speak on the defensive. Seems like whenever someone from council did say "Boo" on CityCycle it was on the defensive. Why not generate your own positive press? If CBDBug can get media coverage on cycling, surely the BCC can get positive message out there, if not, hire someone who can.
- Get Riverwalk up and running again ASAP, as New Farm is no longer CityCycle Central. The trip to the city no means riding through incredibly heavy traffic with no bike lanes, BAZ's or even a fake BAZ.
- Better road quality! Even in a BAZ, often the state of the road near the curb is a mess and highly dangerous (and not just to watermelons). It is challenging enough riding on the roads without having to swerve to avoid uneven/dangerous holes/dips.
- Educate the bus drivers! I have been in so many near misses with buses. Their driving really puts cyclists at risk. Again, you can't get people on bikes if they think it isn't safe.
- Pedestrian education. Pedistrians don't know that we can ride on the pavement. They have headphones on and can't hear the bell. They run into bike lanes without looking. Cyclists aren't perfect, but we are already working not to get taken out by a car, dodge the holes in the road, avoiding the bus that just stopped with its tail across the bike lane without having to swerve to miss jaywalking pedestrians.
So those were my talking points. Most have been said before, but not to the Council's Chairman, Public & Active Transport Committee. One thing I liked about Simmonds was that he has actually used the bikes. I KNOW! In fact, he was a policy officer on the project back in the day, so it is his "baby," and he wants to see it succeed. Overall he was receptive to the dicussion points. Agreed on some, would get back to me on others - though some are just way too hard to try and pull off for an easy fix. He was genuinely interested in my anecdotal expeirences, and wanted to know what I had heard/seen about people for or against CityCycle. I do truly believe that the majority of people who are against the scheme haven't used it at all, have their own agenda (self promotion/politics/helmets), and predominately wouldn't use the scheme if it came up and said I am free, here is a free helmet that magically appears when you want it and you don't need to sign up.
On the plus side though, Riverwalk is a go, and construction is expected to be underway before the end of the year. YAY!
Finally, if you ever can't find a bike, they have some there, on the 6th floor of Brisbane Square.
PS. Cnr Simmonds watches the Channel 9 Today show... #shudder
PPS. I was also contacted by JCD last week to discuss my ideas and use of CityCycle. Never rains but it pours.