Posts Tagged ‘Brisbane’

When an apple isn’t an apple – Brisbane City Council’s dirty little Bicycle Infrastructure Secret.

Friday, April 11th, 2014

There is so much mis-information about bicycle riding out there. Whether it’s TMR’s questionable use of language, local radio stations asking people if they are going to obey a new law, or “journalists” writing clickbait – it’s out there… buckets and buckets of it. We bicycle riders have a mantra we try and stick to – “Don’t read the comments.” Why? I find it scary what some people think. It’s all about perception, really.

Some of our infrastructure (main North-South route on the Southside) goes through storm drains - safe? Hell no

Some of our infrastructure (main North-South route on the Southside) goes through storm drains – safe? Hell no

Some motorists perceive bicycle riders to be law breakers or pushers of an elitist agenda. Some bicycle riders perceive motorists as being selfish and unaware of the impact their driving has on others and the health of a city.

What doesn’t help is the perception, helped along by the Brisbane City Council’s frequent pronouncements, that there is a network of 1,100km of bikeways in Brisbane.

Language is so important. Calling Brisbane’s mishmash of infrastructure a “bikeway network” is a perfect example of misrepresenting the truth that does a lot more harm than good.

How many times have you seen a motorist interviewed say something like “why don’t they ride in the bike lane?” or “we spent all that money on bikeways for the cyclists, so why do they ride on the road?” And you know what? When you know that there are around 6,000km of roads and 1,100km of bikeways, it’s a damned valid question.

The only problem is, is that this data is wrong (or at least counted very creatively).

A road is that bit of bitumen going outside my house, down the shops, past the school and to my office – and there’s 6,000km of it.

A bikeway, according to how the Brisbane City Council counts it, is some sort of bicycle related infrastructure (more on that later) that goes outside my house, down to the shops, past the school and to my office AND BACK AGAIN! That’s right. The Council counts BOTH SIDES of the road.

One of the 186kms of unridable bike lanes. This one is in New Farm.

One of the 186kms of unridable bike lanes. This one is in New Farm.

So there’s 550km of bikeway then, right?

Yeah, well, no.

No? I hear you ask.

No.

You see some infrastructure on the road is counted more than both directions.

Take Victoria Bridge into the CBD from South Bank for example. For motorists, it is counted once. For bicycle riders, it’s counted three times. Yes, three times. There are two bike lanes that are narrower than TMR guidelines (inbound and outbound) plus there is a shared path on the upstream side of the bridge. Three times.

So when someone says “why aren’t they riding on all that infrastructure we built for them?” the answer is, “It isn’t there.” As to what is there – well that’s a whole other problem.

The majority of people who ride these days are sports cyclists. Not all, but most. These fit, brave and oft times lycra wearing bicycle riders aren’t the ones that are being targeted to start riding. Older people, women, mothers – all are being strongly targeted to ride. Money is being spent on programs and communications to encourage them to do so. However all the research here and abroad says unless you feel safe, you won’t be a utility rider (ie just riding for short trips, taking the kids to school, nipping down to the shops, slowly riding into work etc). Saying that we have 1,100km of “dedicated” bike paths (on and off road) sounds like there’s safe infrastructure out there…. but the low numbers of women riding says that this is not so.

Aberleigh Road BAZ. You can just make our the yellow bicycle through all the repairs.

Aberleigh Road BAZ. You can just make our the yellow bicycle through all the repairs.

The Council’s own data shows that less than half of these 1,100km (419km) is off road (including informal paths). That means that most is on the road, and of that, 50% are BAZ.

What’s a BAZ? It’s a Bicycle Awareness Zone. Essentially it’s just a normal road with some orange bicycle stencils on it. That’s not infrastructure – that’s crossing your fingers.

30% are bicycle lanes (186km). Don’t get excited. There’s a reason why bicycle riders don’t ride in bicycle lanes too (and we don’t legally have to). Most are in the “door zone.” Just like a motorist would drive out from a parked car incase a door is opened, so must bicycle riders. “The width of the door and a little bit more” and that means, riding on the edge of the main lane versus in the “safety” of the bicycle lane. Further more, it’s often safer for the rider to “claim the lane” vs trying to ride on the edge of the lane.

I do believe that the Council wants to do the right thing. It makes huge financial sense to have more people (of all ages) on bicycles, where and when they can.

As it stands now though, what the Council touts as infrastructure, in almost all cases, really can’t be classed as such, when compared to the rest of the world.

We have those “dedicated bikeways” in heavy and fast moving traffic offering no protection and aggravation to motorists, we have paths that are impassable after heavy rain as much of the off road paths are on flood plains and some even traverse storm drains, paths that are so dark at night that people are afraid to ride on them, and we have planners and councillors that are car focused, even removing funded bikeways.

A strip of paint, does not safe infrastructure make. This is LaTrobe St in Paddington

A strip of paint, does not safe infrastructure make. This is LaTrobe St in Paddington

The Council needs to step up, show some political will, some foresight and make Brisbane the “New World City” it is selling itself to be. Until then, Brisbane’s “1,100km network of bikeways” receives One Panda. onepanda

Source material can be found via the CBDBUG’s site here.

DISCLOSURE: The author of HowManyPandas is a member of the CBDBUG Leadership team and is also the author of the tumblr blog surlesfleurs mentioned in the open letter to the Lord Mayor and images used here.

From non-cyclist to bike owner via CityCycle – a 2 year journey.

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

 

00001. Numero Uno of CityCycles

Take one non-cyclist.

Add one much maligned bike share program.

Include a healthy dose of passive aggressiveness.

That’s me.

Even before CityCycle  started, I was sold. The more people dismissed it, the more I wanted to do it, to prove them wrong.

What did I know about cycling though?

I believe the technical term is: Jack.

I hadn’t cycled as part of commuting since high school (a very nasty fall due to some road works saw me keep off a bike for many, many years). I did spend a few hours on a bike on a holiday overseas a few years back, but riding in Brisbane? Forget it. Everyone knows just how dangerous it is!

Yet here I was. Committed to CityCycle to prove to people that you could use it as part of your day.

That I did.

I battled through the roll outs and the station that still hasn’t opened close to my home… I pushed through and ended up selling my car, because I rode everywhere. When I went out of the CityCycle network, well there is Translink for that. When I really needed a car, I just hired one. I would CityCycle to and from the rental agency. Too easy and oh so much cheaper than owning.

Weekend on the Coast? Don't forget the bike!

Living and working in the inner city meant that I could get away with not needing a car, with jumping on a CityCycle and getting to where I wanted to go. Free helmets saw me use the bikes even more – because on the odd occasions I didn’t have my helmet with me, I could jump on one and just ride. I mean why walk 10 minutes when you can ride it in 2? Need to get to a meeting (or a coffee) a few blocks away? Jump a CityCycle. It is just so easy.

Over the course of 2 years, I went from pavement and bike path only riding, to being a confident (and law abiding) road based cyclist.

CityCycle did exactly what it is purported to do, for me at least. It got me out of the car, saw me opt out of much public transport (or at least incorporate it for shorter distances), increased my cycling confidence, improved my fitness, and transition into a bike owner.

A few months ago, I took on a new role, located way outside the CityCycle network. When I looked at the job and the location, I didn’t worry about parking, I checked public transport (as a back up) and how it was for riding to and from work. This of course meant I would have to buy a bike. So my CityCycle journey was complete.

I currently ride to and from work daily. If it is a lovely day, I come home the long way along the river, to truly enjoy the city. I love my town and I love riding. I plan weekends around where I can cycle and explore. I have met a whole new group of people – cyclists! Who would have thought that a few years ago this would be me? I would have laughed at you for suggesting it.

 

Yep. That's me. The cyclist.

Yet here I am.

A cyclist.

Post Script:
I have been asked quite frequently since buying my bike if I will be keeping my CityCycle membership. You know what? I will be. I still think CityCycle is the best option for one way trips, or if I want to go somewhere I don’t feel confident about locking my bike up unattended for hours. For $60 a year, I truly believe it is best option out there for many people… you just have to commit to not only trying it, but sticking to it.

More CityCycle Misinformation

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Thanks to the Courier Mail for this pic.

It must be a day ending in Y because the Courier Mail has written another negative piece on CityCycle.

Now, I do understand that not everyone sees the benefit of the program, but “cherry picking” and misrepresenting the numbers by “journalists” is becoming seriously tiring.

Figures released this week found the number of annual subscribers plummeted from 1251 in October when it began operating to only 131 in January.

The way that reads suggests that the total number of annual subscribers dropped by over 1000 in a 3 month period. It actually is the number of new annual subscriber take up – or did 1000 people really cancel their annual subscription. Also, January – didn’t something happen in January. Let me think… Something that impacted the suburbs serviced by CityCycle?  131 people taking up the service in a month with disaster and cleanup is pretty damn good (no pun intended). Talk about cherry picking the least favourable stat and playing it up.

The article then goes on to say

CityCycle operator JC Decaux was paid $93,000 for the October quarter, $73,000 for the January quarter and $143,000 for the March quarter – they receive $122 per bike in use for each quarter.

This statement suggests that the use is increasing back up again substantially – almost double in the second quarter of the year. Though how the 131 subscribers managed to do this I don’t know. This also doesn’t factor in four of the six weeks that CityCycle Paris ran – which generated a staggering 9000 trips (though truthfully most of us just changed bikes more often with a little more riding vs thousands of people joining the scheme. For example I did 97 trips in June – at least 30 of those were me changing bikes mid-journey to garner an extra entry).

Finally let’s look at those figures.  $143,000 paid by the council representing $122 for each bike in use during the quarter. That equates to almost 1200 bikes in use – again not bad for 131 subscribers.

Really Courier Mail – pick up your game.

PS. Could the other 130 subscribers please stop leaving my local station with no bikes twice a week? kthnxbai

PPS. Great little article on why the Dublin Bike Share is so successful. Not the answer most people in Brisbane would think.

 

Sneak Peek – CityCycle Phase II

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Thanks to JCD for the pic.

So I have been pretty quiet on the blog recently, not just about CityCycle but about everything.

That is not to say there hasn’t been a lot happening with CityCycle, there has.

We have the creatively named KillCityCycle campaign chugging along with reams of disinformation and vitriol; the push to make the stations more accessible for riders (had a couple of wins there); the CityCycleParis competition; my meeting with the CFO and Comms Manager of JCD Australia; my speaking about CityCycle and Active Transport at Engineers Australia: just to name what instantly comes to mind.

What has energised me to write is that I just spoke to the BCC’s Project Manager for CityCycle – Samantha Collie again. And let’s just say the news is good!

I first spoke to Ms Collie after I expressed my concerns regarding the safety of one station in particular and a couple of others in the network. Today Ms Collie was calling me back giving me an update. After briefly discussing works to be completed and an action plan to test the existing stations for usability in both directions of travel we spoke about Phase 2.

First up – let’s talk about where it is going….

  • There will be a few more in the city that couldn’t be done last time.
  • UQ!
  • Milton!
  • Auchenflower!
  • Toowong!
  • Dutton Park!
  • Southbank!!!!
  • Mater Hospital!

What extra information I have (most of it relates to me or people who I asked for).

Central Station will finally be getting bikes. It won’t be quick, as there is some works going on there currently, but we will be getting multiple stations at Central including one just down from Turbot Street. This will make hooning (I mean commuting down Edward a breeze). There will also be a station on Anne St as part of the revamp of Central next year.
Southbank have agreed to four (yes 4!!!) stations inside their boundaries.
There will be a like a ring road of stations for Dutton Park and up to the Mater which then connects back through South Brisbane.
UQ will have multiple stations (hope they are big ones) though personally I think they need at least 4 plus they will be getting three stations en route from Toowong Village to UQ.
Toowong will have good access including one just by the Commonwealth Bank.
Milton will have multiple stations – though unfortunately NOT Suncorp Stadium though was advised I should lobby them, but as we know, Suncorp Stadium are NOT bike friendly at all. We will see great Milton access (especially given the lovely BiCentennial Bike Way there), plus stations in hot spots – like the stations and entertainment/restaurant areas. My closest station to work will be Little Cribb St, which means I can avoid the hill past the Barracks.
I forgot to ask where in Auchenflower, but I imagine the station and along the bike path plus a couple of feeders.

All up there will be 46 new stations with construction commencing in September, 2011.

The official announcement will be on Thursday, June 9th by Cnr Simmonds the Minister for Active Transport. So stay tuned for the exact locations, more details and general YAYNESS!

Can we get a HELLS YEAH???

UPDATE: Media release to be Tuesday 14th June, awaiting confirmation from Cnr Simmonds’ office for full details.

Views and Views About CityCycle

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

 

The view west in Cnr Simmonds office. Another perfect Brisbane Autumn day.

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:

  1. Get bins at stations to stop the rubbish dump in baskets. Unsightly and offputting.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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?
  15. 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.
  16. 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).
  17. 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!”
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.

 

Collage of the 2011 Flood on Display in Cnr Simmonds Office.

Pandas, Spandex and Snags

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

 

Das Panda meets a Fan

Today was Ride2Work day as part of Bike Week, Brisbane puts on a huge free breakfast (snags, cereal, juice and coffee) and lets cyclists take over King George Square. This morning, around 1000 cyclists (and more than a few journalists) showed up to either praise or dis cycling.

I was briefly interviewed by the always lovely Anne O’Keefe for 612Brisbane (ABC Local Radio and Brisbane’s #1 Breakfast show) and had the chance to talk CityCycle with Lord Mayor Campbell Newman. It was amazing to hear him tell me that he came across my blog and printed out my latest piece and gave it to the POTB. I saw my last piece have a lot of Brisbane City Council hits in one day a month after posting – now I know who and why. You can listen to both myself and our Lord Mayor here.

Some random snaps are below.

 

"Two wheels are better than four!" (I think she is only holding up one finger though so unicyclists don't feel excluded)

"We will continue to roll out CityCycle!" Music to this panda's ears.

 

More bikes on the racks than at a Triathalon

Anne interviewing Can Do Campbell for Ride2Work Day (she also snuck in a question about dying trees)

Happy Ride2Work Day everyone.

PS. Apparently I was filmed by Ten and made their main Brisbane News – though I don’t know in what capacity. I hope it was me looking super cool while I swiped my CityCycle card!

 

Review – Vapiano – Brisbane CBD

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Inviting but don't be fooled. Food is as bland as those pine boards. (Thanks to the lovely people at http://www.ourbrisbane.com/ for the pic - check them out)

I went in with an open mind, but I left with the book closed.

Located in Albert Lane, this restaurant sees a lot of traffic for its fast Italian menu. People talk about it for its unique price point management system, but that has been done to death and wasn’t the reason we finally made it to Vapiano’s. I had conflicting reports on this place, from loving it more than Vespa Pizza to thinking it was like eating at an aeroport.

I ordered the Verdure Pizza (roasted vegetables) and found it lacking. I was very hungry – as we hit Vapiano after the evening movie – so it was after 9pm before we arrived – but in this case, hunger wasn’t sauce enough to get this pizza over the line. Yes the food was fast, but it was nothing special. I didn’t want a meal that was cooked so fast that none of the flavour had a chance to infuse into the food. In fact the zucchini was still hard in places. My friends ordered pasta and while they both ate everything, neither thought it was outstanding. In fact one suggested that the Carbonara she gets from the hole in the wall place near her work was far superior.

Today I had a heap of reading to do, and I really wanted good quality tea to go with the experience – I didn’t bring any with me (foolishly). I had initially planned on the Tea Centre in Albert Lane, but it was very stuffy, even if the fans going. As I left I spied T2 canisters at Vapiano. Even though I had thought never to go there again, I really wanted good quality tea.

Even though there are T2 canisters on display, the tea was Madura. I have nothing against Madura tea, in fact I drink it regularly due to its reduced caffeine count, but if you are suggesting you are serving T2 tea (which is very high quality) but actually serve up a supermarket tea, I am going to have issues with you. When I asked why my tea wasn’t T2 yet in T2 canisters, the bar tender (my guess would be international student) grabbed the canister and disappeared out of sight. He came back with a large pot with actual T2 teabags in it, but obviously this was not the original plan. So heads up if you do go here and order tea.

To me, the tea sums up everything that I felt about Vapiano’s from my previous visit. It tries to be this super fresh and yummy medium to high quality (by the prices) restaurant. But it is really just low end food. Mutton dressed up as lamb.

Pluses:
Convenient location in Albert Lane.
Easy to split the bill.
Food comes fast, very fast.
Lollies when you pay your bill.

Minuses:
Food quality way below the price point.
Food taste way below the price point.
Misrepresentation of product.

I would recommend skipping Vapiano’s. There are far better options in the same or lower price point a short walk away. Even with jumping a taxi to China Town the meals will still be cheaper and better – I recommend Super Bowl.

UPDATE: I met a friend in the city yesterday and we headed to Vapiano because it was just easier. We had the prawn and chilli pasta and the ham and mushroom pizza. SO much better than my last two trips there. Still not great, but average. #twoandahalfupdatedpandas

UPDATE 2: Another friend I went after my last average but doable experience. This time it was back to woeful.  #onepanda

#oneandahalfpandasthatarereallybrownbearswithwhiteandblackpaintonthem

Vapiano on Urbanspoon
Howmanypandas Queensland restaurants

CityCycle 4 months in

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

CityCycles in the city during the Flood by Jono Haysom

In most of my previous blog entries regarding CityCycle, I have repeatedly stated that CityCycle is its own worst enemy – with their terrible communication skills being their biggest challenge. Things haven’t changed. It is still all about Communication.

In four months, I have taken around 120 trips – everything from swinging down to the shops, to riding to events, commuting to the CityCat/CityFerry network and just riding cause it is a gorgeous day/evening. Even on the most conservative of estimates I would have saved 80 plus bus or car trips. I doubt I am the most frequent user; just maybe one of the more vocal ones, but before I get into the challenges, let me share some of those great benefits of the scheme. I have had some great rides – Teneriffe to Orleigh Park along the river at sunset was just wonderful! I have saved a heap of money on Translink, and kept my car off the road – and most importantly, not had to drive around finding a park, or even worse, paying for the right to park. This was especially true during the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. I would just grab a CityCycle, ride there, rack it and shop. I especially enjoyed riding past the line ups of cars to just get into car parks! There’s a lot of extra exercise in there as well. I for one certainly see the benefits of the scheme and continue to use it as my primary mode of transportation for inner city living.

There are some hiccups.

I will get to CityCycleMailFail shortly, but let’s talk about the how the service has been performing.

Still a lot of white.

Even before the floods, CityCycle was around 40 stations behind schedule (just ignore the fact that the whole scheme was a year late). As you may recall, they were to be 100 stations up and running by the end of 2010 – they hit the 60’s in December, but stagnated there. It should be noted though, that those extra 10+ stations had a huge impact on the “ridability” of the scheme. More stations opening up meant more locations to hire and rack – thereby increasing the number of routes available to users.This was especially true for the Northern end of The Valley, Newstead and West End, with locations opening up in potentially high traffic areas. Post floods we are now at 63 live stations.

Unfortunately, station locations that users are desperate for (especially SouthBank which was caught up in the brouhaha between Brisbane City Council and SouthBank Corporation – You may recall I broke the SouthBank Corporation story before the media in my last blog post on CityCycle) are still not active and some of the placement of stations makes you wonder why they chose that position at all. As one cynical reader of mine suggested, it is more for the advertising placement that the convenience or suitability of those locations.

You would THINK that a station at Central would be a high priority, right?

Another hurdle to the success of CityCycle is the lack of bikes at Train Stations – such as Fortitude Valley, Central, South Brisbane and yes, SouthBank. Initially the main focus was to have the stations up and running around the CityCat/CityFerry system and the bike paths – and this did work well, with New Farm Park being the busiest station on the board – however, with the CityCat/CityFerry network down, and the upriver terminals out for an extended period of time, we need to focus on the trains to get this scheme moving along again. According to CityCycle, there were unexpected structural delays in the building of these stations, but when asked why completed stations aren’t live, there was no definitive answer, just that they are opening shortly (read in the next couple of months). I have recently moved from CityCycle Central (New Farm, Valley and Teneriffe) to the city end of Spring Hill and the closest stations are closed – the one at Central Station hasn’t even had building works commenced yet. Interestingly though, the completed yet closed stations still say they are opening in late 2010. We know from the rapid opening of stations at Teneriffe Ferry after the temporary closing of the only open site due to building construction, that completed yet closed stations can be opened and live almost immediately. Why then is there such a delay in opening the rest of the completed stations?

Membership is continuing to rise, albeit slower than the first three months. In the last month, there was a net increase of 600 new subscribers on board, giving a total subscription base of 3590. Factor in the heat, those weeks of rain, then the flood – that isn’t too bad. I believe that once the temps start sitting in the mid-high 20’s again we will see a sustained increase in membership. CityCycle is MUCH better when you arrive at your destination without helmet hair or your clothes sweaty. There has been attrition however post 3 months, with a few people I know personally cancelling their subscription. I doubt my friends were the only ones to do so. One has to wonder why CityCycle isn’t trying and stop the rot. Here are people who WANT to use it – put good money down to do so, yet walked away. I wonder how many of these people just gave up waiting for their stations to open? I don’t know of anyone who was contacted to find out why they cancelled their account. Why not get some feedback and find out why and then address these issues? If the accounts weren’t being utilised, suspend the account, then offer them a free month when more stations are on line etc? The bikes are out there, get people on them!

Current figures show that  during the week, 224 trips are taken each day, with 170 on the weekend. Think about that for a moment. That is 224 people not on your bus or train. 224 cars not driving into or around the CBD. That is 224 people getting more exercise, and most importantly 224 trips represents 1 in 3 of total number of bikes utilised a day. For someone to say that the figures show that people aren’t interested, I suggest they re-examine those numbers and think about what an extra 200 plus people of public transport or the roads in the inner city equates to. While the roll out to Milton, Toowong, St Lucia are going to be a longer time coming possibly with the re-assignment of funds post-funds, the impact of this scheme and the positive benefits will be long felt.

The availability of bikes and racks continues to be a stumbling point in the scheme around the network. One glaring example came with the death of the Floating Walkway, the station at Malt St really increased in usage – it is the one just near the bikeway into the city that goes under the Story Bridge. It seemed as though every other day I was calling CityCycle about getting bikes put into the racks. When they did deliver bikes, it would only be 4 at a time – which meant that people walking home from the city up Ivory Lane would jump on a bike and ride home so there would be again only 1 or 2 bikes the next day if you were lucky, and they were usually racked by commuters returning home after 6pm. This week, this was finally been addressed with 80% of the rack refilled at a time. What I don’t understand, is why CityCycle has to be constantly told to move bikes. I thought the whole point of their integrated system was so they can react quickly to ensure the availability of bikes and racks, instead I am constantly told “We will get out technicians on that.”

Soon we will have 2000 mobile garbage bins in the inner city.

The cleanliness of the bikes has also been a major issue. With the floods, no one really rode the scheme for a week – and spiders set up home on some bikes and birds pooped over more of them. Almost two weeks after my last email to clean the bikes at one busy station on James St, there are still spiders controlling over half of the racked bikes. I don’t know about you – but I don’t particularly want to be picking off spiders before going for a ride. I don’t have a phobia, but I certainly don’t want to be in heavy traffic and have a spider crawl out of the plastic and scare the heck out of me. Another issue here is that the public seem to use the baskets in lieu of garbage bins. I can’t tell you the number of times I have gone to a bike to find bottles, rubbish, junk mail etc left by Joe and Joanne Public. As there are no bins near most of the stations, the choices riders are faced with are very limited. Either walk it down the street to the first available bin (sometimes not an option as there can be none in sight in residential areas), put it in another basket and make it someone else’s problem, or take the garbage with you and drop it in a bin along the way. Surely keeping the bikes clean of rubbish, bird poop and insects is the job of the cleaning techs, but they either don’t do it very well, or they are spread so thin, stations just don’t get cleaned. In my entire time riding the scheme, I have only seen one station and bikes getting cleaned (at QUT).

Early on, the broken bike rate was sitting at around 10%. These days it is higher, sitting at just over 15% for me (this includes stuck bikes in racks). One trip I had to use THREE bikes, with the third failing about 100m from my destination. You often see bikes with the seats backwards for weeks at a time in racks – with the technicians doing nothing to fix them. Common problems are loose seat clamps, locked brakes, sticky/locked gears and the pedals getting caught on the skirt/pant guard each rotation as you ride. One of the real hinderances to getting the bikes fixed is that the onus is on the user to send an email through the CityCycle webpage, to advise them of the number of the faulty bike. I, like many others I am sure, have the best of intentions of advising of faulty bikes, but if you are riding out to an event, you can’t do it till you get home, and by then you have forgotten about it or can’t remember the number. Even though there is an app (more on that later) you can’t advise JC Decaux of faulty bikes in it. Overseas, the accepted practice to advise the roaming bike technicians of a faulty bike is just to turn the seat around – unfortunately this is not working as a communication tool here. On the plus side of the CityCycleMailFail, everyone now has the email of the Customer Care team – so perhaps we can just email directly instead.

YAY! Station open and bikes available!!

The iPhone/iPod application itself has real issues – as does their linked network. Post flood, for days stations that were closed were still listed as open on the app and the web based map, even showing the number of bikes and racks available. When this was finally addressed (after I got sunstroke from having to walk 1km at midday to the next station only to find that the system hadn’t registered my previous bike being returned, and then waiting another 20ish minutes without shade post call to the Call Centre to fix it) the closed stations didn’t communicate with the app correctly. Stations that were closed, were still coming up on the favourites page, again with bikes and racks available. After multiple calls to the Call Centre with no result other than “Sorry, here is the closest rack/bike,” I emailed, and was sent back a list of the closed stations without even an acknowledgement of the problem. This problem was further compounded by CityCycle’s media communication as to their response to the floods. Now this probably was due to Brisbane Times, but it was reported that all of the 17 stations that were flood affected were now reconnected (read open). They were not. In fact, not all of the affected stations are yet back in service.

Oh wait, the station isn't even listed!

Of course, CityCycle is big news again after I broke the CityCycleMailFail story via Twitter on Friday. A few people were jumping on the privacy bandwagon and again expressing their reasons as to why the scheme should be canned, is doomed to fail, is a waste of money etc (Looking at you Ray Smith – Labor Mayoral Candidate). I certainly am not thrilled that my private email address is out there, but kudos to those who did receive the email for not doing a reply all. Mistakes do happen, and while this was a doozy – it wasn’t to the level of McLarenMailGate, but I must admit, it certainly didn’t look good. Around 15 minutes after the mass email Friday, they unsuccessfully attempted to recall it, and again listed all the emails. An apology was in the media around 45 minutes after the initial email, and an emailed apology (BCC’ed) was sent just under 3 hours after the event. I am not sure why this was classed as an “urgent, unscheduled communication” post floods – surely another day wouldn’t have hurt, and it wasn’t as though the floods and the availability of stations during and post floods was a surprise. To me, this isn’t a nail in the coffin of CityCycle. Let’s keep it in perspective. People make mistakes.

Crashing phones everywhere!

Communication is still the biggest challenge that CityCycle faces. The loss of subscribers, the difficulty in getting clear answers to opening times of stations, the clunkiness to advise of a faulty bike, the failure of its app and on line map system, and yes, CityCycleMailFail are all problems caused by the poor communication structure/plan by JC Decaux here in Brisbane. The second biggest challenge are the roads and sharing them with cars, buses and taxis. Thankfully, groups such as the very active and passionate CBD Bike Users Group are out there doing what they can in conjunction with council and government to up bicycle usage and to keep us safe. Things we can look forward to are more bike lanes, improved bike paths, more awareness etc. I am concerned about Brisbane City Council’s care of the road system in inner city. Given my new location, I am riding more on the roads and the area close to the curb is terribly rough/uneven, especially with the poor suspension on the CityCycle bikes – imagine a pot hole/poorly repaired hole, down a hill with things in your basket – yeah, not great.

Yes there are lot of negatives here, but they aren’t insurmountable problems. Even with these annoyances, it is still very usable and saves me so much money in PT fares (especially with the increase) and parking, not to mention fuel costs. I get out, about, see the city first hand, have more exercise and really enjoy using the bikes. Just today, I rode from my home in Spring Hill to a cafe in Teneriffe for breakfast. I then jumped a ride a friend as it was too hot to ride at midday (I could have caught the CityGlider) to West End, then rode home this evening. $5 here, $10 there doesn’t seem like much, but if you think about it over a year on say a week’s usual usage, I am saving a minimum of $780 in PT alone, not counting street or carpark parking, fuel, wear and tear on car etc. So easily at least $1000 a year. For my $60 subscription, that is one good return on investment. I will continue to embrace the CityCycle system, whinge about them when they let me down, but will always get back on the bike. After all, I’d be crazy not to.

#threeandahalfpatientandforgivingpandas

Caffeine Espresso – Teneriffe

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Gorgeously presented, but the tea itself was nothing special.

I see this cafe all the time – my second favourite riding route takes me straight past it. I often see a lot of cyclist there early in the morning, then people relaxing at the side walk tables as the morning progresses. An acquaintance recently told me of their amazing $10 Saturday morning breakfast over beers at the QA, so, with the help of some friends, we tried it out.

Hard to pass up this Saturday morning only special.

Located on the dog leg on Commercial Drive where it meets Florence St (conveniently across the road from a CityCycle station),  Caffeine Espresso offers standard breakfast fare, such as muesli, toasted sandwiches, as well as some decently priced cookies, muffins and savouries for the snack friendly. I was there for the $10 breakfast though… It was two eggs, scrambled with chives (made with cream I think) on a thick buttered slice of sour dough, with 3 pieces of bacon, a thick slice of tomato and an orange slice. Also included in the price was a coffee, I got a pot of tea instead – opting for Earl Grey.

The food itself was very good for the price. The bacon and tomato were pan fried, but not oily at all. The bacon was also of the premium cut variety, so not the thin fatty part. The scrambled eggs (my breakfast of choice) was so rich and creamy and not over cooked. They were a deep yellow colour as well, so not watered down with milk. Three friends ordered the same, and like me, ate everything on the plate. Another ordered mango yogurt and muesli, and finally one had toasted cheese and ham sandwich.

The coffee got mixed reviews. One friend said it was really good, another said it was a little burnt. Another had a chai latte and had no complaints, though my tea was just average. The brand of tea wasn’t the best – though it was gorgeously presented. However for $10 for a breakfast that left me full till after 3pm with a big pot of tea – you can’t really complain.

Pluses:
Very conveniently located off the main drag with lots of side streets for parking – though note some are covered by meters.
CityCycle station 65 is just across the road.
Quick service time, food was out in under 10 minutes, and shortly after the drinks.
Iced water available (including ice) by the door.
Doesn’t get the morning sun on the tables, so not ridiculously hot to sit outside.
Friendly service, cafe style.
Excellent value for money.

Minuses:
Not enough sugar pots or salt and pepper shakers for all tables.
Chairs feel a little unstable but seemed fine.
The brand of tea.
Not so comfy you want to linger and linger.
No wifi provided and one friend had patchy 3G coverage while there.

I can’t comment on what Caffeine Espresso is like during the week, but on Saturday morning, forget spending $16.50 on a meal then $4.50 on coffee, and throw down $10 at Caffeine Espresso. You won’t be disappointed.

#threeandahalfegglovingpandas (it would have got 4 pandas if the tea was better quality or if I ordered the yummy chai I imagine)

Caffeine Espresso on Urbanspoon
Howmanypandas Queensland restaurants

Brisbane Flood Update

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

This water rose so fast. I was there earlier in the day and it was just puddling. 6 hours later the roundabout was nothing but some bushes poking out of the water. Less than 1km down the street from my home.

Hi Panda Lovers.

As many of you know, I live in an inner city suburb of Brisbane. As you also know we have been flooding for the last few days, with the river peaking at dawn this morning.

Any time I have been home I have been following what has been happening vs watching any tv fiction or blogging.

Less than 1km from my home the water rose quickly. Less than 1km down the street from my home.Less than 1km down the street from my home.

Thankfully, I live high on a hill so no threat of flooding for me, but yesterday we on the patio of a house less than 1km from me while watching the river rise in their back yard, before having to wade through water to get out. Everything was moved, lived higher if not upstairs, but thankfully, given the water peaked 1m less than expected, many ppl’s homes were spared. Others though were so lucky.

As things begin to return to normal, so will my blog. I have The Cape to view, Episodes, new episodes for my regular shows as well as some movies I intend to see once power is back.

XOXO