“The proposal that was put forward … would have cost a bomb. [It] would have cost a bomb to introduce electric bikes into the existing CityCycle scheme.
“So, it was, effectively: ‘You want electric bikes? Fine. Millions and millions upon millions to do that.'”
A council report submitted to the December 3 council meeting noted JCDecaux’s original proposal to replace CityCycle with e-bikes required the council to pay “significant” capital costs.
The council considered terminating the CityCycle contract early, but with 10 years still to run, the estimated costs would be too high, according to council documents.
In July, JCDecaux offered to end the CityCycle contract and remove the bikes and docking stations. In exchange, the company would retain until 2031 the 200 advertising panels that funded the program, and extend a separate bus advertisement contract until 2031.
“This variation supports council achieving the most advantageous outcome for residents and visitors to Brisbane by leveraging the holistic relationship it has with JCDecaux,” the council report said.
More than 1150 council buses will be wrapped in advertisements under the agreement.
After multiple complaints the new wraps will be lighter, enabling passengers to see outside.
Opposition leader Jared Cassidy said the council’s arrangements with JCDecaux were “probably the worst deal I have ever seen this council make”, and that CityCycle had cost ratepayers an average of $4520 a day since its launch.
“Instead of forcing JCDecaux to make CityCycles more user-friendly and accessible, they are simply giving up,” Cr Cassidy said.
The council’s financial costs and revenue under the revamped agreement with JCDecaux were redacted as commercial-in-confidence in the council documents.
CityCycle has operated in Brisbane for 10 years, racking up just 4 million trips before the emergence of e-scooters led to usage of the bicycles crashing within two years. E-scooters clocked more than 3.5 million trips since arriving in Brisbane in November 2018.
Cr Schrinner said the council’s decision to go back to market for a cheaper dockless e-bike scheme was “the right thing and the responsible thing”.
He said a new e-bike scheme, without docking stations, would potentially create revenue from operator permits rather than the council subsidising CityCycle for another decade.
The scheme cost council $16.5 million since its inception, after then-lord mayor Campbell Newman promised it would be cost-neutral with JCDecaux funding the bikes through advertising furniture across the city.
Greens councillor Jonathan Sri questioned the advertising agreement, saying a council report detailing the contractual changes “really [does] highlight what a dodgy deal the City of Brisbane got in terms of this agreement”.
In November, public and active transport committee chairman Ryan Murphy said the council had not been able to “change everything that we would have liked with the contract” but the new agreement was an “excellent deal for ratepayers”.
Lucy is the urban affairs reporter for the Brisbane Times, with a special interest in Brisbane City Council.