Growthpoint Properties has introduced two electronic bike hubs to the Sandton business district, in a pilot project the company hopes will grow its footprint, says Growthpoint head of energy sustainability Werner van Antwerpen.
The two hubs are opposite the Sandton Gautrain Station, at the Growthpoint-owned 138 West Street building, and outside The Place at 1 Sandton Drive, which is owned by Growthpoint and also the address of its headquarters.
A hub consists of charging stations for the bikes, powered by solar panels on top of the structure. A hub manager is on site to release and accept bikes and issue bike helmets and cycle locks.
The hubs currently focus on providing transport to Growthpoint staff members, clients and guests, but will eventually be open to the greater public, says Van Antwerpen.
“Over the last four weeks we have had 129 bookings for the ten bikes on offer.”
The bikes, currently available at no costs, can be booked via a website.
The Growthpoint e-bikes are supplied by GreenCycles. The imported bikes, also called pedal-assist bikes, are fitted with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. They can travel 60 km before they must be recharged.
A bike can cost between R5 000 and R10 000. Hub costs can vary.
“The most expensive hub components are the solar panels and batteries,” says Van Antwerpen.
Each e-bike is tracked via GPS, which provides a breakdown of how many kilometres it has completed. Intended for short trips around the Sandton Central neighbourhood, a bike can be booked for several hours before it needs to be returned to a charging hub.
Van Antwerpen says an e-bike makes it much easier to traverse Sandton’s hilly landscape.
Van Antwerpen believes the two-hub e-bike network can be expanded across Sandton, as well as into other business hubs and cities, such as Cape Town.
“Imagine have a charging station at the Gautrain Marlboro station where someone from Alexandra can hop on a bike at low cost, and then travel into Sandton on a dedicated bike lane.”
Growthpoint Properties does not necessarily want to operate such an e-bike network, says Van Antwerpen. The ideal would be to introduce an operating company to run with the project.
“There has to be a greater strategy than only Growthpoint. Maybe the Sandton Central Management District can drive the project. We only wish to be the catalyst for what will hopefully become a much larger-scale project.”
Van Antwerpen believes the prerequisites for success are having a number of charging stations scattered across Sandton; dedicated bike lanes, as are currently under construction; a competent vendor able to deal with challenges such as one-way traffic during peak times, for example; and the availability of private/public subsidies, which can be supplemented by advertising on the hubs and bikes.