The Chinese bike-sharing app launched in Manchester this week. Ed Howe went for a test ride.
How it works
After you’ve downloaded the app, you find your nearest bike by using the map. A bike can be reserved for up to 15 minutes.
When you locate a bike, select “Unlock” on the app and it opens a QR scanner. Each bike has a QR code.
Once the QR code is read this unlock screen appears, it takes about 30 seconds to unlock and you can hear the bike “click” as it unlocks. And then you’re off! Rides cost 50p for every 30 minutes. To re-lock the bike there’s a simple lever to push down and then the ride ends.
I think it’ll be a hit – there were certainly a lot of people taking great interest in it in town on Thursday’s launch day, and it got widespread media attention. I saw a few cycling through the city centre at rush hour.
The system is easy to use. The £29 deposit – special offer rate for July, £49 after that – is refundable whenever you want it back. However, if you take back the deposit you’ll have to pay again if you want to take a bike out.
You can ride it to anywhere within Salford and Manchester but leaving it in an unpopular place leads to fewer credits. Leaving it in a town or city centre will give you increased credits. Mobike is establishing public branded stations where you’ll get lots of credits for leaving the bike. Leaving it in private property or a back alley will lose you credits. The idea is to encourage good behaviour and efficiency for all users. Mobike is working with local logistics companies to bring bikes back to key points of high-demand, whilst ensuring the bikes are in top condition.
The bike is definitely too heavy to throw in a river, as some people on social media were worrying about! But it is nice and easy to ride. It even has a little basket to stick your groceries / shopping / dog / baby / husband in.
Looking at the app at the end of the day there appeared to be bikes scattered across the city – including the one I left in Angel Square. The Mobike guys at the marketing tent were saying they’d had loads of interest but that the rain had dampened the launch. There’s going to be a massive event this weekend where more bikes will be released and we’ll start to see them everywhere.
Who is Mobike?
Mobike is the world’s first and largest smart bike-sharing company. Its mission is to bring more bikes to more cities, using technology to “make cycling the most convenient and environmentally-friendly transport choice for urban residents”. Using specially designed bikes equipped with GPS and proprietary smart-lock technology, Mobike enables users of its smartphone app to find a bike near them, reserve and unlock it, all using their smartphones. After reaching their destination, the user parks the bike by the roadside and locks it, automatically making the bike available to the next rider. The company officially launched its service in Shanghai in April 2016, and in just over a year has since expanded the service to 130 cities globally.