A six-month pilot of an “Uber for bikes” bike-sharing scheme is to start in Manchester and Salford on 29 June.
Under the scheme, over 1,000 bikes will be made available throughout the city, In a European first, the scheme runs by a cashless smartphone app and in-built smart locking system that allows users to locate, pick up and drop off bikes at any convenient – and legal – parking location, rather than use docking stations, as happens with the UK’s existing urban cycle hire schemes.
Operator Mobike is the world’s largest bike-sharing business, running cycle hire schemes in 100 cities across Singapore and China. Unlike dock-based providers, Mobike and similar operators do not charge cities.
The scheme has been welcomed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), with the potential to support the region’s Cycle City strategy, helping boost the number of journeys made by bicycle, contributing to regional targets to improve air quality, reduce emissions and improve public health.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “As Mayor I want to see many more people swapping their cars for bikes in Greater Manchester and I will take a positive approach to promoting cycling across our city-region. This scheme could help make cycling more accessible to people, but it is an untested idea in the UK and we will need to keep this under review.
“We’re conscious that our city centre is a complex and busy area already, so TfGM has been working hard to establish a voluntary code of working with Mobike to make sure the service operates in a way that doesn’t inconvenience other road users, pedestrians or city centre traders.”
The Mobike app enables users to rent a bike nearby, locate it using inbuilt GPS mapping and unlock it automatically by scanning a QR code on the bike. Journeys are charged per 30-minute period, starting once the bike has been unlocked and ending once it has been locked again. Users are incentivised to use the bikes responsibly by an ongoing credit score.
Bikes will initially be available at sites such as railway stations and university campuses.
Salford city mayor, Paul Dennett, added: “Mobikes are a green, low-carbon and healthy way to travel in Salford, where we’re investing £10 million in cycling and off-road cycling infrastructure.”
Mobike is advised by Beever & Struthers.