Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has laid down the rules on Melbourne’s controversial oBikes, giving the company clear deadlines for removing the yellow rental bikes when they are dumped or damaged, and empowering the City of Melbourne to issue fines if they don’t.
Members of the public can report abandoned oBikes to the company’s hotline for collection, but if the City of Melbourne finds bikes that are broken, dumped, cluttering public places or blocking traffic, it can give the company notice to remove them, with time limits depending on the circumstances, and oBikes causing a hazard must be removed within two hours.
The rules are a result of EPA’s ongoing engagement with Councils and the operator, as well as an investigation that revealed oBikes found in trees, broken or damaged by vandals, used for makeshift public art, and more than one hundred of them fished out of the Yarra River.
EPA CEO Nial Finegan said EPA has used the litter provisions of the Environment Protection Act 1970 to cut out the nuisance factor that annoyed Melbournians when oBikes first appeared around the city.
“We have issued the company with Litter Abatement Notices that allow the City of Melbourne to issue fines of more than $3,000 each for any incident in which the company doesn’t comply,” Mr Finegan said.
“EPA has issued the Notices at this time, given the company’s inability to provide EPA with the confidence that it could, or would, manage this issue in the absence of the statutory Notices,” he said.
“The official Notices will remain in force for three years and include time limits for the removal of any damaged or dumped oBikes, or any that are causing a nuisance or endangering the public.”
The team effort between EPA and the City of Melbourne also carries a clear message for some members of the public who have not been taking oBikes seriously.
“The authorities are responding to a disruptive technology that has become a nuisance, an eyesore and a hazard to people’s safety. Whilst not wishing to stifle innovation in anyway, EPA will act to protect the environment for all Victorians,” Mr Finegan said.
“Some people have been vandalising oBikes, turning them into makeshift art, and dumping them where they create a hazard on land or in the Yarra River. It is annoying the community and damaging the liveability of this city,” he said.
“EPA and the City of Melbourne are working together with a set of requirements that has been carefully chosen to allow the company to operate its business but stop the bikes from becoming pollution, inconveniencing the community or creating a hazard.”
The Litter Abatement Notices require oBikes to be removed within prompt time limits:
- 2 hours for oBikes creating a hazard, such as blocking a street
- 24 hours for damaged or vandalised oBikes
- 24 hours for oBikes cluttering the street in excessive numbers
- 48 hours for oBikes in inappropriate situations, such as on a roof, up a tree or on inaccessible land, and
- 7 days for any oBike found in a waterway
The Litter Abatement Notices give the City of Melbourne the right to remove and impound oBikes wherever the company does not meet those time limits.
The official notices also require the company to produce a management plan for abandoned and damaged oBikes, and a publicity plan to promote the oBike customer service hotline and email address. Both plans must be in place 13 June 2018 or the company will face a fine of $3,171.40 for every week they are delayed.
“EPA has been working with the City of Melbourne and other agencies since oBikes became a public issue late last year,” Mr Finegan said.
“Our officers also met with representatives of the company to find out more about its structure and its intended solutions to the problems of dumped, damaged and inappropriately discarded oBikes,” he said.
“The rules laid out in the Litter Abatement Notices give oBike and any other bicycle sharing company a clear set of rules, and consequences if those rules are not followed.”
Members of the public can report dumped, damaged or excessive numbers of oBikes to the company’s Customer Service Hotline on 0452 512 453, or email email@example.com
MEDIA NOTES: These are the requirements listed in the Litter Abatement Notices issued to the oBike company.
Litter Abatement Notice number 90008807:
- Where an oBike is observed to be causing an unreasonable hazard (i.e. parked across a road, carriageway, etc.) you will relocate the oBike within 2 hours.
- Where an oBike is observed as being faulty/damaged/unsafe you will remove the oBike within 24 hours.
- Where excessive numbers of oBikes ae observed you will reduce the number of bicycles at a single location by relocating the excessive bicycles without 24 hours.
- Where an oBike is parked in an inappropriate location (i.e. on a roof, in a tree, on inaccessible land), but where it is not causing an unreasonable hazard, you will relocate the bike within 48 hours.
- Where an oBike is located within a waterway you must remove the oBike within 7 days.
- A council or relevant authority may remove and impound the oBike at any time if requirements 1 to 5 are not adhered to.
Litter Abatement Notice number 90008615:
- By 6 June 2018, you must provide to the litter enforcement officer listed on page 3 of this notice a management protocol for abandoned and damaged oBikes in the state of Victoria
- By 13 June 2018, you must implement the management protocol detailed in requirement 1.
- Every week post 13 June 2018, that the management protocol for abandoned and damaged oBikes in the state of Victoria is not implemented or produced to the officer listed on page 3 of this notice will be deemed a separate non-compliance under this notice that shall carry a penalty of $3171.20 (20 Penalty Units).
- By 6 June 2018, you must provide to the officer listed on page 3 of this notice a communications and engagement plan to promote community awareness of the oBike customer service hotline and email address.
- By 13 June 2018, you must implement the communications and engagement plan detailed in requirement 4.
- Every week post 13 June 2018, that the communications and engagement plan to promote community awareness of the oBike customer service hotline and email address is not implemented or produced to the officer listed on page 3 of this notice will be deemed a separate non-compliance under this notice that shall carry a penalty of $3171.40 (20 Penalty Units).