China’s leading bike-sharing company is set to make its first foray outside Asia by launching in Manchester on 29th June. Mobike (opens in new tab), which operates five million bikes in China, will launch with a fleet of 1,000 in Manchester, with plans for rapid expansion should the launch prove successful.
Unlike London’s cycle hire scheme, Mobike’s system does not require any docks. The cycles are located via GPS and unlocked through the Mobike app. They can then be ridden anywhere and locked at any bike rack, saving users the inconvenience of having to find a dock.
Users will pay a deposit when they sign up to use Mobike, which the company says will be around £49. The full pricing for the service in Manchester has not yet been revealed, but the first and second 30 minute periods will cost 50p each. Each ride is paid for by topping up through the app.
The downside of the dockless system is that riders can just dump the bikes anywhere like alleyways or even bike lanes. This has been a problem in China, where Mobike has attempted to combat improper behaviour by giving users a credit score that can be reduced if they park in inappropriate places or forget to lock the bike. Users can also boost their credit with correct use and by snitching on bad behaviour. If your credit score drops too much, riding the bikes costs more.
The recently elected mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said that the Mobike system will be carefully monitored to ensure it doesn't clog up the city centre with discarded bikes.
“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,” said Burnham.
“We’re conscious that our city centre is a complex and busy area already, so TfGM [Transport for Greater Manchester] 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.”
Mobike is likely to face competition from another Chinese dockless bike company, Ofo, as it too expands beyond Asia. Ofo has already started a pilot scheme with around 50 bikes in Cambridge, and aims to fully launch in three UK cities before the end of 2017. Mobike, meanwhile, is expected to launch in several other European cities in the coming months.
Another company – YoBike (opens in new tab) – launched a bike-sharing scheme in Bristol in May with a fleet of 500 bikes and reported that demand far exceeded expectations.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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