Rack Mobike At Manchester New Cathedral Street

Boardman criticises Mobike engagement as city looks to cycling future

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

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.”

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It was a problem for sure, a flawed system especially in smaller more surburban cities like Manchester. If it made money they would obviously stay but it just doesn’t work, whether that be mobike or ofo or any of them. A docking scheme like Liverpool or London works far better.

By York Street

It was wrong scheme …… app wasn’t good, bikes rarely in place they said they were & bikes not that good – uncomfortable with solid tyres and single gears. Having the bikes left, seemingly abandoned, encouraged the scroats to mis-use. London & Liverpool schemes are much better with docking stations.

By Bo

Doomed from the start, as no docking stations

By Steve

Another first for Manchester.

By On yer bike.

Thank God Mobike have pulled out, nothing but giant litter!
I’m all for cycling but the system is all wrong & with little or no consultation.
Mobike have attempted to deflect blame from their system as a Manchester problem.

By David

As much as I wanted to like Mobike, Manchester CC isn’t that big and 9 times out of 10 it was just easier to walk. I think I used it about 4 times when it became available and then never again.

By Matt

These bikes will be withdrawing from Europe eventually I’m positive, I saw one on fire in Berlin, granted it was just the one but I imagine not the only one. Not nice but not surprising. They’ve had trouble in Australia too. Let’s not get all snotty about this, It’s not just estate youths, migrants and homeless who vandalise, you’ll get middle class students and cheshire set folk getting drunk and thinking it’s funny to throw these things in rivers.

By Chris

I never saw many people riding the things and they were pretty limited in area. It’s mostly students using them during term time.
I wonder how much is the company is just blaming antisocial behavior for the failure or their scheme to take off?

By Ged

We have a huge problem in Manchester with feral youths. It always seems so much more marked here than other cities and trying to make excuses doesn’t wash. It needs sorting by the Mayor,the Council and mainly the police. It is not Mobikes fault that people are not safe on the Metrolink,or walking the streets and that we have to endure gangs of scallies ruining peoples’ commutes,day after day. This is down to rubbish schools, a total lack of discipline and decades of handstroking for bad behaviour by the woolie brigade. This does not happen in Hong Kong or Singapore,or even Berlin or Paris. It is a disease in this country brought about by years of allowing the tail to wag the dog. Mobike are better off out of it. Yet again these people have ruined a facility for decent people and yet again the powers that be are blaming everybody else for the underclass,that they, as Margaret Thatcher would have said are ‘too frit’ to deal with.

By Elephant

Have you seen the people at Piccadilly Gardens. Why do these people get sent to Manchester and not other cities? It’s no wonder vandalism is so high.

By Wayne

I thought they were great and used them when I could, they saved a lot of 15 minute (or longer) walks – it’s over half an hour from NQ to Castlefield. They were easy to locate, use and ride, I’m going to miss them.

By Edge

Their concept was founded in China. Slightly different approach to crime & punishment there. No adjustment of their model to operate in a more liberal society. I wish we were tougher on crime – but I wouldn’t just drop a business model from China into UK and keep my fingers crossed ……

By A Developer

There are lots of reasons it didn’t work I suppose, I would say the lack of community policing from May’s cuts have been a huge contributor to the increase in anti-social behaviour and other crimes… the police are fighting a losing battle. I thought mobike worked well though I’m fortunate to work near an area where mobike would gather their bikes so finding one wasn’t an issue. lack of consulatation, lack of local understanding, lack of common sense.

By MancMan

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