I signed up for Reddy Go while sitting on a bus into the City. It was all pretty straightforward although accompanied by the usual thicket of terms and conditions. The refundable $99 membership fee is being waived at the moment and signing up also got me coupons for four free rides – so the deal was a good one to try things out.
My first niggle came when I went to pick up a bike. I got off the bus at Lang’s Park, near Wynyard, and went for a bike that was located just behind the Park. Ten minutes of fruitless searching, and I couldn’t find the bike for love or money. I almost gave the whole thing away at that point, but there was another bike showing on the map in the direction I had to walk anyway so I went for it. This one was on the opposite side of a cross-roads from the pin on the map but close enough that I could see it and find it easily. The bike is a distinctive red and perhaps even more visually obvious because it has a basket up front.
Unlocking the bike was pure simplicity. I pointed the app at the QR code on the back of the bike and almost instantly the locking device audibly disengaged. There was a helmet hanging off the bike which was good quality and easily adjusted – keeping these fresh will clearly be an issue as the scheme ages, but right now it was great. After adjusting the seat for height I set off.
The bike is solid and well-built. Inevitably, it’s on the heavy-side and built for ease of use rather than speed. There are three gears but using them didn’t make a huge difference (given Sydney has hills a few more gears might have been a better call). To be honest I thought the brakes could have done with some adjustment, but I’m being a bit picky there. Other than those quibbles it was your standard basic bike. I rode the bike up with Fort St Public School where I parked it.
Parking involves simply locking the bike back up. The lock is built-in; it’s not a chain you’re attaching to anything, so you can park and lock anywhere. Once the lock engages your app asks you if you want to pay now. Again it’s incredibly simple. After I did my volunteer class at the school I came out and the bike was sitting where I left it. I repeated the hiring process, jumped on and rode over to Town Hall. Again the process was seamless and easy.
After I’d parked the bike again, the app told me how far I had ridden, what the cost was, and some stats like how many calories I’d used. Presentation is excellent. I used the feedback button to report my quibbles and had received a response form the company by the end of the day.
Overall it was a great experience.
There are a couple of things that would improve the experience, and I know some of these are coming. First there simply needs to be more bikes. If you look at a map of the bike locations there are huge gaps in the coverage at the moment – if you want people to use the bikes regularly you can’t have that. Reddy Go say they have 1500 more bikes arriving any day and that should make a big difference.
My other suggestions aren’t going to change anytime soon. If it were me I’d have more gears on the bikes for Sydney riding. Instead of a basket up front I’d have a weather-proof box for the helmet that unlocks with the bike. And I’d have some way for the app to flash a light on the bike or otherwise draw attention to itself when you’re trying to find it. But these are all nice-to-have’s and won’t change my view of using the service.
The other success factor for the service is going to be considerate users. Just because you can leave the bike anywhere, doesn’t mean you should. The picture adorning this article is not where I left the bike – I left it accessible but out of line-of-sight on the view and not right by the road. The trade-off between ease-of-access and not annoying non-users is going to be a challenge.
Ultimately, the key factor in people using the service is that bikes can quickly and easily be accessed whenever they are needed. Getting more bikes on the road and ensuring they meet the desire-lines of where people want to move (rather than just all washing up at destination point) is the management challenge facing Reddy Go as a company. If they can pull that off, bike sharing will be a great feature in Sydney.