Mobike launches in Manchester; Ofo creates dockless bike share code

Mobike has today been officially launched in Manchester, with the cooperation and blessing of Transport for Great Manchester. The dockless bike share scheme is operated by a Chinese start-up company. Fellow Chinese start-up Ofo has today launched a self-policing charter for the burgeoning dockless bike share sector which, claims a Dublin-based start-up, could reshape cities.

Mobike, which is self-funding the Manchester roll-out, hopes that its bikes will soon become a key part of the city’s transport scene.

The Chinese company has partnered with property developers (such as MediaCityUK and Exchange Quay), BikeRight, Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University as well as TfGM to help make its debut a success. Manchester is Mobike’s 100th city launch, but its first in Europe.

Mobike’s distintive bikes have been unloaded overnight to key locations jointly decided between Mobike, TfGM, and Manchester and Salford City councils.

Users pay a refundable deposit of £49 to use the Mobike scheme, with usage of the bikes charged at 50p per half an hour. 

In largely unregulated Chinese cities, dockless bike share schemes have been accused of causing clutter, with bikes stacked up in unsightly piles. To counter this, Mobike competitior Ofo has launched a UK-specific code of practice for dockless bike share schemes.

Ofo hopes its charter will "serve as a call to action for all current and future bike sharing operators to uphold high standards of service at all times."

Ofo operations director Joseph Seal-Driver said:

“We believe it is important to set a positive example for our industry. With this charter, we are publicly setting the bar of standards we will be upholding, and we hope we will inspire others to follow.”

Ofo’s charter recommends that all bike sharing schemes should:

  • Encourage users to leave bikes in suitable locations by providing parking spaces suggestions through an app
  • Establish a customer rating system to prevent misuse and to control parking
  • Have adequate measures to ensure customers are over 16 years of age. 
  • Provide geo-fencing to dictate where rentals can be ended
  • Provide in-app reporting, with 24/7 contact centre available to report any issues
  • When notified by council or individuals, remove bicycles within a timeframe previously agreed with the individual council.

All shared bikes should have:

  • Tracking devices
  • Solid rubber tyres
  • Dynamos and/or front and back lights
  • Adjustable seatposts
  • Contact number clearly displayed
  • Mudguards
  • Weight limit clearly displayed
  • ISO4210 standard of manufacture
  • Be maintained using sustainable principles of repair and reuse
  • Regular servicing/spot checking to ensure bikes are safe for use

All bike sharing schemes should:

  • Share anonymous data with local authorities under NDA for use in transport planning and partner with other shared and public transport services to provide a joined-up service offering for transport in a city (Mobility as a service – Maas)
  • Work in partnership with local authorities, communities and businesses including independent cycling shops and community groups
  • Offer to fund independent research by the relevant local authority into cycling, sharing information gathered and the nature and geographic use of bikes
  • Offer to meet regularly with councillors/officers to keep them updated with local operations
  • Service entire spectrum of urban communities, not just affluent central areas

All bike sharing schemes should:

  • Be an accredited Living Wage Employer
  • Employ all staff directly, rather than use sub-contractors
  • Aim to make all business journeys including its redistribution journeys emission-free by using pedal power and where needed, electric vehicles
  • Educate communities about health and environmental benefits of cycling including emissions and calories saved
  • As part of its commitment to getting more people cycling, provide bike training and instruction opportunities through sponsoring local program events

The dockless bike share sector is potentially transformative – read this long-form article on BikeBiz – but it’s not new. It has been around since 2001 when German train company Deutsche Bahn launched its Call-a-Bike scheme. The largest dockless bike share operater in Europe is Nextbike of Germany.

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