The European Cyclists Federation has expressed concern about the arrival and rapid expansion of dockless bike share schemes. It warns that many of the firms expanding into Europe, having had huge success in China, have previously displayed a lack of cooperation with local authorities.
There have been dockless bike share schemes in several UK towns and cities for a while now, but there has been a recent surge in interest following the high profile launches of Mobike in Manchester and oBike in London.
While there is enthusiasm for the concept in a broader sense, both of these schemes have since attracted unwanted attention with reports of bikes being deliberately damaged and at least one council considering parked bikes “obstructive”.
Another Chinese dockless bike share firm, ofo, this month raised over £500m in funding with which to pursue international expansion.
Cambridge News reports that ofo is to triple the number of bikes available in Cambridge, but concerns have been expressed about what this means for local bike shops and a city where there is already a shortage of bike parking spaces.
Bike Europe reports on a recent position paper by the Europe-wide Platform on Bicycle Sharing & Systems (PEBSS) – a body formed by the European Cyclists Federation – which expresses concern about how these firms operate.
The paper makes reference to, “the disruptive innovation of app-based, un-anchored and un-licensed bike share schemes, and how that may affect Western markets as they expand aggressively.”
It warns: “A carefully designed service area strategy for all forms of bike share systems is a critical component of a wider urban mobility strategy. Forward planning of parking spaces and other cycling infrastructure, providing orderly streets, ensuring public safety, and promoting tourism are important elements of this strategy.
“On this there are some issues as reports from Chinese cities suggest that there is a lack of redistribution efforts by these operators, with bicycles sometimes inundating popular areas of the city, compounded by a lack of maintenance leading to discarded bikes piling up in public spaces.
“The sheer volume of bicycles (for instance, 600,000 bikes in Shenzhen) and the expected comparatively low number of staff to manage these bikes helps explain this. A lack of coordination and cooperation with local authorities further compounds the problems that cities face with the roll-out of unlicensed dockless bike sharing.
“This also means that while these systems do not appear to involve any direct public financial support, they could entail some cost for public authorities as they may have to deal with nuisances in public space.”
The paper includes a list of best practices which it says can help cities and relevant public authorities construct their own framework to manage the arrival of dockless bike sharing operators.
Straits Times reports that Wukong Bike has become the first dockless bike-share firm to shut down after 90 per cent of its bicycles went missing, just five months after its launch.