National standard for bike-share schemes to be discussed by DfT at conference

The Department for Transport’s head of active travel Rupert Furness will inform delegates at a Leicester conference on the progress being made towards a national standard for bike-share schemes.

Late last year the transport minister Jesse Norman said the DfT was evaluating the need for such a standard:

"The Department is discussing with various stakeholders the possible need for an agreed consistent national standard for bike share schemes to help ensure that they are introduced and managed appropriately," he said.

This is a reference to dockless bike-share schemes. Norman said such schemes could “make an enormous difference to urban cycling.”

In a written parliamentary answer Norman flagged the fact that the DfT would be present at a meeting between bike-share firms and local authorities. The number one item on the agenda will be a national operational standard for dockless bike companies, he said.

"Department for Transport officials have met representatives from most of the major dockless bike-share companies operating in the UK, as well as from some local authorities and boroughs where they are trading," said Norman.

"The question of a possible national standard has been raised at several of these meetings. The Department is also inviting various stakeholders to a workshop in January where this matter will be discussed further."

This workshop will be staged on January 30th at Leicester City Hall.

Transport for London introduced a dockless code of practice in September last year. And Bikeplus, the informal governing body for bike sharing in the UK, released a "vision" for good working practices for dockless operators in November. This recommends a "need for regulation rather than individual city guidelines."

Most dockless companies say they would welcome a national standard.

Ofo UK’s general manager Joseph Seal-Driver told the Financial Times:

“It’s a bit of a grey area in the UK. There’s no straight primary legislation from the government that says local authorities can regulate this type of bike-sharing service.”

Twenty-five UK cities and towns have bike-share schemes, with more than 25,000 bikes available for hire across the country. London has the "Boris bike" docked scheme and cities such as Manchester and Newcastle have dockless bikes from Chinese operator Mobike. Fellow Chinese operator Obike has recently pulled all of its bikes from Sheffield, but 1,000 were recently distributed by Ofobike.

The principals from the main dockless bike-share companies recently took part in an hour-long conversation on a BikeBiz-connected podcast.

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