No Action On Mobikes For Nearly Another Year

Bye-law to give control over docking bike schemes will take several months


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The controversial Mobikes which have irritated some local traders and residents in Chiswick are likely to remain at least until next summer.

The situation relating to dockless schemes across the city is not expected to change until summer 2020 at the earliest when a bye-law covering the licensing and operating of dockless bike schemes across the capital is expected to be put into place.

The orange Mobikes have been unpopular with some since they were first introduced as both traders and residents complain that they are carelessly abandoned on pavements and outside entrances to shops and houses. They have now been joined by Lime e-bikes being promoted by Ealing Council and recently red Uber bikes have appeared. However, they have become an increasingly common sight on our roads and their proponents say they have provided a significant boost to the number of people cycling.

Hounslow Council has been criticised for failing to put pressure on the Mobike operator to collect the bikes when they are abandoned but the Council says that because the scheme is unlicensed, it has no power to control the situation. The Mobike operator has admitted that sometimes the GPS collection system fails to locate discarded bikes.

The Council has now been told a docking scheme bye-law will be in place by next summer. It will enable a licensing scheme to be put into effect and give local authorities powers of enforcement. This has been confirmed by Transport for London (TfL).

Mobikes were introduced on a trial basis for 12 months to Chiswick. The scheme was set up following an approach by Mobike, which had successfully launched in other boroughs including Ealing. Ealing Council later allowed the operation of electrically powered Lime bikes. They are not supposed to be left in the Hounslow part of Chiswick as it is not a scheme approved by Hounslow.

Following the end of the trial period last March, and amidst scores of complaints from Chiswick, Hounslow Council launched a public consultation to get feedback on the Mobike scheme and admitted it had been disappointed, saying the "Mobike service to date has not consistently met with aspirations." asked the Council for the results of the consultation some months ago and was told they were awaiting news from TfL about the proposed bye-law. It had transpired that there is currently little or no regulation for operating the new schemes throughout London.

Ironically the distinctive orange bikes have been the subject of controversy for the very reason they were supposed to be more user-friendly, that they did not have to be parked at a specific docking station.

Hounslow Council says it had originally thought Mobikes would offer greater flexibility to users than docked bikeshare schemes such as the Santander scheme operated by Transport for London (TfL). The idea that they could be left anywhere proved to be a double-edged sword when users abandoned them in places that caused obstruction to the public.

The service was being provided to residents at no cost to the council which at first seemed attractive. The Santander scheme, on the other hand, would have been prohibitively expensive to expand into Hounslow.

The number of Mobikes around Chiswick seems to randomly increase and then reduce and they appear in clusters around the place.

The scheme has attracted some fans as well as detractors. One regular user of the scheme contacted us to say, "Whatever its limitations, Mobike has been the biggest step forward in sustainable transport over the last few years in Chiswick. It doesn't cost taxpayers a penny so the council would be daft to do anything other than endorse the scheme and look for ways to expand it."

The Mobikes got a poor review in The Londonist. The reviewer lasted seven minutes before panicking and getting off the bike. "It's not roadworthy. The bike weighs plenty but doesn't have any sturdiness thanks to the weight, nor are there gears. We spent our hellish seven minutes afraid of careering into other road users, so difficult was the bike to control. Avoid."

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October 19, 2019

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