The danger of describing your product as vandalism-proof is that some people may interpret that claim as a challenge. In the early days of Manchester’s Mobike dockless bike share scheme, there have been a number of reports of bikes being deliberately damaged or deposited in canals.
When Mobike arrived in the city last month, boss Chris Martin described the bikes as ‘vandalism-proof’ and suggested they weren’t susceptible to theft as they were available to all anyway. “Who would buy it? It’s like buying a bottle of stolen tap water,” he said.
This was doubtless an attempt to downplay potential problems at the outset with the intent being to draw firm conclusions about the viability of the scheme at the end of the six-month trial period.
So how have things been going?
The Manchester Evening News reports that there were around 20 incidents of Mobike theft or vandalism reported to police in the first 10 days of the scheme. However, the firm itself said that several of these were reports of abandoned bikes from people unfamiliar with its dockless sharing system.
Phil Spurgeon, from Greater Manchester Police’s City Centre team, said they had received 17 reports of Mobike criminality since June 29. “This includes reports of abandoned bikes and criminal damage. On two occasions Mobikes were also thrown into the canal.”
The newspaper has also published footage of a group of youths attempting to trash a Mobike on Redhill Street in Ancoats on Friday night and James Headisen, former chairman of the Ancoats Residents' Forum, said he had seen a similar incident at the same spot.
“Someone had ridden the bike home to Ancoats. Youths had picked it up. They were throwing rocks at it. When I intervened they told me they ‘own this neighbourhood’, threatened to throw me in the canal, and then talked about going to get a knife. These kids don’t care – even when they know they are being filmed.”
Greater Manchester Police’s Moss Side and Hulme Twitter account has also collected seven Mobikes with the locks snapped off so that they could be used for free.
— Moss Side & Hulme (@GMPMossAndHulme) July 9, 2017
Spurgeon added: “We know the majority of people in Manchester have been using the bikes respectfully and parking them in designated authorised areas. Sadly, a small minority are not doing this.
“We have been liaising with Mobike, as well as the council, and we will be meeting with them to discuss any concerns and ways we can work together to help reduce the risks of misuse, theft and damage.”
A spokesman for Mobike said:
“Over the past fortnight, Mancunians and Salfordians have enthusiastically embraced Mobike. Both user and trip growth from the first 1,000 bikes are far beyond our expectations, with the bikes in very high circulation.
“We’ve been seeing nine to 10 rides per bike per day. The launch of Mobike in Greater Manchester has been as popular as any of the 100 global cities where we operate.
“While we’ve monitored some issues with a minority of bikes, this has been a tiny number in the context of the scheme’s success and popularity.
“Greater Manchester Police have received just 17 reports related to Mobike issues since launch, from a very high usage of the bikes.
“A number of these reports have been related to suspected – and mistaken – bike abandonment, reported by those unfamiliar with Mobike’s innovative dockless sharing system.
“We have received strong support from Greater Manchester Police, as well as local councils, and will be continuing to work closely with both to ensure our scheme continues to best serve local communities and business in Greater Manchester.
“We would like to thank the public for their support of Mobike, and encourage them to provide any feedback on the scheme via support.uk [at] mobike.com.”