How to use oBikes in Melbourne

We’ve been living in Melbourne for several weeks now, and every time we went out we’d both notice these yellow and grey bikes – named oBikes. Both of us always wanted to cycle a little when in England, but just never got the chance to buy bikes, so we couldn’t help but think how these oBikes could be a really amazing idea. Depending on how they work!

What are oBikes?
OBikes are bikes which have been spread throughout the city, for public use. You’ll usually spot them around the CBD of Melbourne, or surrounding suburbs. For example, we live very close to South Yarra & St Kilda and the bikes seem to be everywhere – s0 they definitely aren’t hard to find!

How do you use oBikes?
To use the oBikes, you need to download the app from the app store, which I’m sure can be found on most app stores – we use iPhone and it was very easy to find and download from there.

Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll need to log in or set up a user account. To set up a user account you can also log in to your Facebook Account or Google Account – making it quick and easy.

You’ll then need to add some credit to your account, which can easily be done by adding your bank card to the app. When I joined I got a couple of complimentary rides and I also purchased the current Groupon (this deal may not be live at the time of reading this). When I noticed oBikes on Groupon its what really pushed me to give an oBike a good try for the first time since I was able to buy 5x 60 Minutes uses per day for 90 days for $6, so a pretty good deal – even if the bikes didn’t turn out be that great, I won’t of really lost out much.

Usually, a ride costs around $1.99 for 30 minutes, which is pretty cheap.

Once you are set up on the app then you can search for your surrounding area to find the nearest bike. When you have found the bike which you would like to use, then you reserve it to make sure that nobody else can get to the bike before you and use it. When you reserve the bike you have ten minutes to get to the bike before it will appear back available in the app. The app also has a handy built-in SatNav to help you find the bike much easier.

When you have located the bike then you must switch your Bluetooth on so that it can connect to the bike. Then you need to click the ‘unlock button’ on the app, this will activate your phone camera, which you need to use to scan the bike QR code. Once you have scanned the bike QR code, if the bike is available for use it should unlock the lock which is situated around the back wheel of the bike – you’ll know when it has unlocked because you’ll hear a loud clicking noise and you’ll then be able to push the bike around.

All you need to do then is get your seat set up to a comfortable size, keep your Bluetooth on your phone, and then ride away.

When you are finished with the bike, you just need to make sure you park it up somewhere reasonable and then lock the bike by pushing the handle around the back wheel.

Why oBikes?
Tom already owns his own bike so has a very cheap, practically free, way of getting around Melbourne – but I was still stuck with using my MyKi card everywhere. Now, the MyKi card is a pretty good deal as it is capped at $8.20 a day for unlimited travel in Zones 1 & 2. Although sometimes when the weather is hot, the last thing you want to do is be stuck on a busy tram or train.

We’d also love the chance to get more fit and active while living in Melbourne so cycling everywhere is a perfect way to do that.

oBikes are a great way to get used to cycling the roads around Melbourne without having to commit to a bike of your own.

Our Thoughts on oBikes – The Good Points:
The oBikes are a great idea, and very accessible. When you download the app you can see all the bikes closest to you, and you can even book the bike within a ten-minute slot before using it, to help make sure you get the bike and don’t arrive to find that someone else has decided to use the bike. The app even has a built-in SatNav which helps you find the bike.

The bikes seem to be built pretty well and are very easy to use. You can adjust the seat so that you can get properly comfortable.

They are very easy to use, although I’m not always a super confident person when doing something for the first time – so they are definitely to use as a couple or a group of you for the first time so you can work everything out together.

The app is pretty well built, although some of the User Experience is a little hard to grasp, overall it is very easy to use. There’s also a cool little feature which tells you how far you’ve travelled on the oBike and how many calories you’ve burnt.

Our Thoughts on oBikes – The Bad Points:
Sometimes, good quality oBikes are very hard to track down. You might go to a bike which you have reserved only to find that someone has spray painted the seat, or removed the front wheel.

The main issue with these bikes, which is completely out of control by the oBike company, is the way the public treats these bikes. Many people in the area seem to have no care for these bikes at all! They have been thrown in rivers, spray painted, parts removed, or driven into by cars.

Another issue is the way the public is being educated on how to use the bikes, it obviously isn’t clear enough for some users that you must lock the bike once you are finished with it. Yesterday, it took me around 30 minutes to find a bike around Melbourne CBD which had actually been locked/finished being used. Some people would probably just lock the bike and then wait for it to reappear on the app so that they could use it, but I know that one time I’d do that the person who was using the bike would return and not be very happy that I’d taken off with their bike. But, I think a lot of the time people are either too uneducated to lock them, too lazy, or just don’t care that someone else may want to use the bikes.

They are meant to come with helmets, but they don’t. Obviously, when all the bikes were placed in public spots they came with helmets, but now I’d say over 90% of the bikes no longer have helmets as they’ve all been stolen. This is a real shame, as they can’t be used how the company intended for them to be – you should just be able to turn up and use these bikes without any planning. But now, before you leave your home you need to think about taking your helmet out with you just in case.

Our Thoughts on the oBikes – Suggestions:
As sad as it may be, the public just doesn’t know how to take care of things. Although the idea is great that you should just be able to use these bikes whenever you want at a low cost – unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that well all the time. We think that you should have to put a $50 deposit down into the app to be able to use the bike, that way there’s always some money in the system for the bikes to be repaired, and it may stop unreasonable users trying and ruining these bikes for others.

Don’t bother providing helmets, and make it clear on the app that you need to purchase a helmet before use. Partner up with local supermarkets such as Woolies to make the helmet purchase easily accessible, and add an eCommerce store to the app which allowed users to purchase a helmet at a reasonable cost.

Make reporting issues with the bikes an in-app ability. Currently, you can report issues but the only way of doing this is by emailing the company.

On sign up, make the user provide I.D such as a Driving Licence or Passport. Making sure that you as a person are very attached to a bike would then stop users being able to hide behind a social media mask when using the bikes, giving the user more responsibility and hopefully more care over how they use the bikes.

Only allow adults to signup for the oBike app. Sadly, this would stop children being able to use them whenever they want. I’m not saying stop children using the bikes, but if they want to use them then an adult must signup for them on the app. I have previously seen many children messing around on the bikes, and also leaving them in silly places e.g. the middle of the road. I know adults can sometimes be no better than children, but it may reduce some of the risks of damage to the bikes.

Overall, we love the idea of these bikes, and we will continue to use them. I think these bikes are an amazing idea – and if it wasn’t for silly people who have no respect for anything in this world, then I’m sure they’d work perfectly.