I think most will agree the news from Mobike this week was disappointing but understandable, writes Stephen O’Malley of Civic Engineers. Notwithstanding the limitations of their bike system, in terms of bike size, single gear, actual number of available bikes and app glitches; all decisions controlled by Mobike; the scheme was always going to struggle if bike culture and urban infrastructure were not yet in place. And the simple fact is that they weren’t and aren’t in place in Manchester, at least not yet.
Yes, there was the wholly unacceptable behaviour of those who vandalised the bikes and ignorantly expressed their views that demonstrated cycling has no meaningful value for them or their immediate community.
What is perhaps more interesting is that 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.
The Beelines is a fantastic Greater Manchester Combined Authority initiative that will help to democratise cycling. The combined authorities now need to demonstrate the strength of their conventions and get on to deliver urban infrastructure based on these principles. It’s only when a city wide network is in place that all parts of the community will begin to see that cycling is an attractive, cheap, healthy, safe and highly efficient option for them.
We continue to see the densification of GMCA, which in itself is a good thing, and we can’t and more importantly we shouldn’t want toservice this increase in population by providing more space for cars.We can see the abject failings of that system already. What’s important is when the next generation of Mobike arrives, which it inevitably will, let’s make sure our streets are ready for them. Providing the right infrastructure will foster the right culture and help people realise the immediate and direct benefits cycling offers them and go some way to help make Manchester a safer, greener and healthier city.
This article was originally published through Place Resources