‘Boris Bikes’ under threat from dockless bicycles equipped with GPS
China-based firm Mobike is to base 750 bicycles equipped with GPS technology in the west London borough of Ealing from September, with the number expected to increase as demand grows.
Mobikes are picked up and left anywhere without the use of docking stations, unlike those used by Transport for London’s colloquially named ‘Boris Bike’ scheme which requires docking.
The distinctive silver and orange bicycles were vandalised after being introduced to the UK for the first time in Manchester and Salford in June.
Fifty of them were damaged and abandoned in the first few weeks of the project, although the company said only a few were beyond repair.
Another dockless bicycle hire firm, oBike, has been criticised for allegedly not working closely enough with local authorities following its launch in London earlier this month.
There were reports of bicycles obstructing pavements, left hanging on railings and even thrown onto railway tracks. London’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman said oBike “showed up in London without consulting anybody”.
Mobike said its London launch follows “sustained collaboration” with Ealing council.
Users download an app which employs GPS technology to show riders where the nearest available bicycle can be found. They then scan a QR code to release a lock.
After paying a refundable deposit of £49 - reduced to £29 as part of the introduction to London - users are charged 50p for trips of up to half an hour.
Steve Pyer, UK general manager of Mobike, said: “What differentiates our approach is that not only do we work closely with cities in the run-up to launching our scheme, but we also aim to be a benefit to them in the long term.
“We pride ourselves in being a truly positive and enduring benefit for the areas that we work in. That was the case in Manchester and we’re confident it will be the case in London, starting with Ealing.”
Ealing Council leader Julian Bell said: “We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to try cycling, so I’m excited by the arrival of Mobike.
“We have a wide range of cycling support already in place, including free cycle training, free maintenance checks and free guided bike tours, and this affordable dockless bike scheme will complement all these.
“This scheme works best when everyone plays their part in using and parking the bikes responsibly so as not to block the pavement for others.”
Norman welcomed Mobike’s engagement with Ealing Council and said: “Dockless bikes have real potential to make cycling more accessible and I’m pleased that Mobike has been working so closely with Ealing Council before launching their scheme.
“It is vital that operators work closely with boroughs and TfL (Transport for London) to ensure that these bikes work well for all Londoners.”