Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) (11:35): I lead for the Opposition on the Impounding Amendment (Shared Bicycles and Other Devices) Bill 2018. I say from the outset that Labor is committed to encouraging active transport modes such as cycling and walking and, as such, we support bike sharing as a way of getting people out of their cars and encouraging them to be active in moving about the city and our regional areas. Rental bike sharing can have an important role to play in Sydney's transport future, but operators of dockless bike share schemes must be appropriately held to account. While Labor supports this bill, it has been far too long in coming. Despite cries of assistance from local councils, the Government is only now moving to create a supportive environment for share bikes—ironically, at a time when the majority of share bike companies have left the city.
In formulating its response to this bill, the Opposition has sought the advice of local councils and Local Government NSW. Unfortunately, the responsibility of managing this issue has to date fallen unfairly on councils. The Opposition believes this bill will begin to address public safety and impoundment cost issues that councils have for too long been carrying the burden of. As I said, Labor understands the great environmental, health and traffic benefits that cycling brings to New South Wales. Cycling is a highly beneficial mode of active transport for short trips, particularly the "first mile" and the "last mile" of a commuter's journey—the journey from home to the train station on the way to work and vice versa. We are committed to ensuring that cycling is encouraged as a legitimate mode of transport and that cycling infrastructure is properly funded and resourced.
In considering active transport, share bikes or dockless bikes are a relatively recent phenomenon, characterised by ease of access, availability and mobility. Share bikes have been successfully introduced in cities around the world, but in Sydney the experience has not been a positive one for residents. Dockless bikes are picked up and dropped off where and when the user wishes, and this has been the cause of great discontent. It is not that people oppose share bikes; they just oppose the way in which the introduction of share bikes has been managed. We saw companies such as ofo, Mobike, oBike and Reddy Go establish themselves in Sydney in a relatively short period of time, but it was not long before residents, particularly those in inner-city areas, saw a fundamental flaw in the system as the number of bike operators and therefore number of bikes increased.
Bikes have been left strewn along the footpath, obstructing driveways and blocking shop entrances. They have been dumped in waterways and left in front yards. These were not just one‑off incidents. In the Western Sydney area I could not drive around a residential block without seeing an abandoned bike—yellow, red and black bikes were dumped in the streets. What was supposed to be a positive inclusion to our transport offering quickly developed into a major public safety issue, as bikes were regularly dumped, blocking thoroughfares and causing safety concerns. Currently the Impounding Act 1993 confers powers on enforcement officers to impound bikes when the enforcement officer believes on reasonable grounds that the bike has been abandoned or left unattended. However—and this is why this bill is needed—the powers of councils and public landowners to impound abandoned articles do not allow for owners of those articles or objects to be penalised. Only the individuals who left them behind in that public space will be penalised. In the case of share bikes, that is the user, not the operator.
Councils have called for greater regulation to allow them to deal with the issue of dumped share bikes. Impounding bikes that are dangerously and badly parked by the user is highly costly and time consuming for councils. Ultimately, ratepayers have to bear the cost. In the absence of action by the Government, a group of six Sydney councils convened in December 2017 to develop the guidelines for dockless bike share operators—a framework that aimed to set out minimum standards and expectations for dockless bike sharing operations in Sydney. While the guidelines provided a framework around customer safety and conduct, data sharing and insurance, it also outlined the conditions by which a bike could be impounded if dangerously parked or abandoned. Following the end of a three-month trial of those guidelines, mayors from the City of Sydney, the Inner West Council, Waverley Council and Woollahra Municipal Council called for immediate action from the State Government on new laws to cover dockless bike sharing.
I thank those councils for being proactive in this space. They have not opposed share bikes, but they have called for greater support from the State Government to develop a workable framework to manage them. As the dockless bike share system is dependent on a network of users who regularly cross council boundaries, it is clear—and it was clear from the very beginning—that a standardised approach is needed. I will now briefly turn to the contents of the bill. As we have heard, the bill amends the Impounding Act 1993 and Impounding Regulation 2013. As stated, the primary purpose of the bill is to give impounding officers appointed by local councils, or by other public authorities, additional power to move or impound shared bicycles and other devices that are provided for hire as part of a sharing service and that have been left in a public place.
Broadly, the bill outlines two circumstances in which a shared device may be impounded or removed by an impounding officer. Proposed new section 19D notes that a device may be impounded or moved when it has been left in a public place and the impounding officer believes on reasonable grounds that the shared device has been left in a way that causes an obstruction or safety risk. The circumstances under which a discarded bike is considered an obstruction or safety risk is when it is left in a way that causes an obstruction to traffic, whether vehicular or pedestrian, or that is likely to be a danger to road users or the public. Once notified by an impounding officer, the operator must remove the bike within three hours. I believe that many pedestrians, residents and shopkeepers will be pleased with this proposed new section because the onus will be on operator to remove the bikes quickly and efficiently while also permitting impounding officers to simply move the bike to a safer location at their own discretion.
Proposed new section 19E notes that a device also may be impounded if the device has been abandoned, which is defined as being left in a public place for more than seven consecutive days. In some circumstances, a share bike user or any other person is also able to trigger the provisions. Perhaps the Minister will provide some guidance on how that will work with an individual if they contact the operator—how that is proven and by what method that will be acceptable. Given the extraordinary number of bikes we have seen dumped, I believe this is an important addition because it allows residents who see a dumped bike to report the location of the bike and seek to have it removed. But I again ask the Minister: How will this work in practical terms? How will residents know how they report the bike? How will residents know where they can report it and what communication channels they can use?
I also note that in proposed new section 19B the bill does not limit the definition of a device to encompass dockless bikes only but also encompasses any other device used for transporting persons. I am pleased with the inclusion of this proposed new section, and I congratulate the Minister, as scooters or any other shared transportation devices that may be introduced to the market in the future also will be properly regulated.This will provide councils with more scope to deal with new emerging personal transportation trends. That is incredibly important. I note that bike share companies have been open and keen to work with the Government in a positive and constructive way. I applaud those companies that strived for the long-term benefit for the community rather than rushed and cheap solutions. Unfortunately, while they have waited for action, many have not financially survived and have been forced to leave the city.
Stakeholders including the Mayor of the Inner West Council and Local Government NSW are broadly supportive of the bill and see it as a positive step in helping councils better manage dockless ride‑sharing services. I note that some councils, including the City of Sydney, maintain the view that a permit system would be a better option for regulating shared devices. While acknowledging the concerns of that council, the Opposition believes it is necessary to proceed with the legislation in its current form as a matter of urgency, due to the lack of current regulation in the space.We have waited far too long for this. As I have mentioned Labor is committed to ensuring that bike share and dockless services are integrated in a properly regulated system that works in conjunction with councils and the State Government. This bill will begin to empower councils to properly address the significant public safety and obstruction issues that for some time they alone have had the burden of addressing. As stated, Labor will not oppose the bill.