Concerns Over New Dockless Cycle Hire Scheme
Mobikes from Chinese bike company can be parked anywhere
A new low-cost bike share scheme has just been launched in which uses an app to book and dock the bikes, which can then be parked anywhere, even outside your house.
However, this has raised concerns that it could lead to the bikes being parked at will causing inconvenience to other residents. The areas covered are the parts of Chiswick under Ealing borough control.
Mobike, which is a Chinese based firm, entered the UK market in Manchester earlier in summer and picked Ealing borough to deliver its London service with an initial 750 bikes. A row of the bikes is now currently located outside the Duke of Sussex pub at the entrance to Acton Lane.
The new system has been broadly welcomed although some reservations have been expressed following problems with similar schemes in other boroughs.
Unlike 'Boris Bikes' the new scheme will not have docking stations. Users will be charged 50p per half hour after paying a £29 initial refundable deposit. The bikes can be booked using an app and unlocked using a QR code. The company says there is a GPS system on each bicycle, helping to locate and monitor the condition of bikes. Although the service will launch in Ealing there will be no restriction on the area of London in which they can be used.
A similarly named scheme called Obike was launched in Hammersmith & Fulham recently by a company from Singapore but caused problems as carelessly abandoned bikes caused obstructions. Some residents have claimed that similar problems are likely to occur in Ealing borough now that the scheme has launched. Hammersmith & Fulham Council say they were not consulted on the launch of the scheme but the Mobike scheme is endorsed by Ealing Council. Ealing Council and Mobike will be installing pavement vinyls indicating “Mobike Preferred Locations” to encourage responsible parking of the cycles.
Local police officers have also been working with the company on the scheme. Inspector Aaron Clarke says that he believes that as well as creating greater flexibility for customers, the scheme will hopefully encourage people out of their cars and into positive exercise habits. The fact the bikes can be left in any public place - for example, outside your house once you’ve cycled home from the station - is what makes this new scheme such an innovation.
However, he adds, "I’m not without my concerns, and it was reassuring to meet with Mobike’s Operations Manager for London, Tristan Rankine, to discuss them. It’s really important to understand the likely impact of the scheme on local residents and businesses, so that your local neighbourhood officers aren’t unnecessarily drawn into anti-social parking or abandonment issues."
He says that the company has been receptive of feedback and he believes they will work with the police so that residents can enjoy the positives of the scheme without experiencing negatives.
The company have also launched a helpline for people concerned about Mobike being used anti-socially, seemingly lost or abandoned, or damaged. The Contact Centre is open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and there is an out of hours service, both contacted by telephone on 0330 131 9789 or firstname.lastname@example.org You will need the bike number, which is painted on the bike, when you call.
Cllr Julian Bell, Council leader of Ealing said, ‘Mobike are the World’s largest operator and they have a huge amount of experience in managing dockless bike sharing schemes. They have already introduced the bikes in Manchester and it’s good to see that they are taking a cautious approach to introducing them to ensure they are a success. I’m sure our residents will show consideration for other road and pavement users and do their bit to make sure they park them sensibly and help the scheme to run smoothly.”
Steve Pyer, UK General Manager for Mobike, said: “We’re excited about today’s kick off and the roll out of our scheme in Ealing. We’ve had really productive discussions with local businesses and organisations in the past few months, and we are all committed to leveraging Mobike to develop the bike sharing culture across the borough, and get people cycling more. We have also invested in a local workforce to support the scheme’s distribution, as we are eager to be a strong long term partner for the local community, and London more widely.”
Mobike has partnered with London-based bike maintenance company and cycling scheme expert havebike which will help provide monitoring, maintenance and refurbishing of the parking areas.
Mobike is aiming to provide bikes to more London boroughs over the next few months.
To use the service, users need to download the Mobike app, register, and scan the QR code on the bike. The QR code unlocks the bike and allows the user to ride it away. Users need to park the bike at any authorized bike parking area near their destination and manually close the lock on the bike.
The Mobike mobile app is now available for download at the Android store here and Apple app store here.
September 14, 2017