Bike sharing company Mobike this week announced that it would be withdrawing from Manchester due to the impact of vandalism, however according to cycling commissioner Chris Boardman and members of the city’s property community, its loss is down to more than just anti-social behaviour.
Mobike, which launched in Manchester last year, issued a statement earlier this week saying that it had lost 10% of its bikes each month over the summer due to vandalism and theft, and would be leaving the city as “we have a duty to ensure our revenues cover our costs since unlike some operators we do not use taxpayer money to help balance our books. Unfortunately, the circumstances in Manchester have not made this possible.” The company’s head of growth Steve Milton, said “the minority had ruined it for the majority”.
However, Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner, and advocate of the city’s Beeline plan, Chris Boardman, has responded by saying he “just hadn’t seen the right level of engagement from Mobike”.
Boardman said: “Anti-social behaviour is not a problem unique to Manchester, it has been encountered in other UK cities and other bike operators have found ways to deal with it. The problem here has been that we just haven’t seen the right level of engagement from Mobike or a willingness to work to implement tried and tested solutions.”
Mobike used a dockless system, meaning that the bikes were left scattered around the city, and were booked through an app which wasn’t always reliable. While there were many instances of the bikes being vandalised, stolen, or the locking devices removed, there was also criticism from users of the bicycles that they were heavy, difficult to ride as they have no gears, and could be hard to find quickly.
Boardman continued: “This was always a trial and despite the negative outcome we’ve learnt a huge amount from both using and observing the scheme in action. A successful bike share scheme requires close community and partner engagement from the outset, the option for docking stations and enough people on the ground to ensure it is reliable and serving its purpose.
“I want to assure Greater Manchester residents that the learning is already being put to good use and that they can expect some very positive news in the not too distant future.”
At the same time, Mobike also reduced the area it was delivering its service in in London, ostensibly “so users can find a bicycle faster”.
Manchester’s property and business community have also spoken out over the end of the Mobike scheme, pointing out that the city’s infrastructure was still not good enough to encourage widespread bike use, and that the reputation of cycling still needed improving.
Stephen O’Malley, founding director of Civic Engineers said: “The scheme was always going to struggle if bike culture and urban infrastructure were not yet in place.
“The Mobike experience has also shown that for many, the perception is that cycling is still too niche and is an experience for those typically middle aged, middle class white guys. This perception combined with the fact that the infrastructure is still far to raw means that getting around our city by bike is a fraught, seemingly unsafe experience across an incoherent, highly fragmented network of short links whilst being drowned out by cars and HGVs.”
Wrong city, wrong time, wrong everything. The data speaks volumes. Average journey: 0.72 miles is quicker to walk than faff about with an app, getting to a nearest bike, unlocking it and then cycling. Manchester is too small to justify the effort. As for utilisation…
— Michael Di Paola (@MichaelDiPaola) September 6, 2018
- Read more from Civic Engineers on Mobike and Manchester’s cycling future on Place Resources: https://www.placenorthwest.co.uk/resources/mobike-and-manchesters-cycling-future/