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Man charged £2.4m for dockless hire bike trip – which should have cost 11p

App glitch blamed for mistake – but with Mobike now in the UK, check your bank statement if you use one

A man in China who did not lock a dockless hire scheme bike properly when he had ridden it to work was charged £2.4 million for the journey, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The bike belonged to dockless hire scheme operator Mobike, which recently moved into the UK, its first partnership being with Transport for Greater Manchester, and which is now expanding into London.

Bikes are hired using an app which provides a code allowing the rear wheel lock to be opened. Users then lock the bike when they are finished with it – something that the user in this case, a resident of Wuhan named Mr Li, apparently failed to do.

Due to what Mobike described as a glitch with its app, he was charged 21.4 million Yuan – the equivalent of £2.4 million – for his ride.

Happily for Mr Li, the company has agreed to waive the charge.

A spokesman for the company said: “Very few customers will encounter similar issues and they are able to dial a service number or report the glitch on the app. Customers need not worry.”

Dockless bike schemes are hugely popular in China, with major operators including Ofo, launched in Beijing in 2015, Mobike, which started trading in Shanghai the following year, and Obike.

All three of those businesses are targeting growth outside China and each is now operating in the UK.

The first to arrive in the UK was Ofo in April, when it undertook a soft launch in Cambridge, followed by Mobike in Greater Manchester.

Last month, Obike launched in London, but its aggressive expansion which has seen it deploy hundreds of bikes across the city has been criticised by some local authorities as well as by London’s cycling and walking commissioner, Will Norman.

Operators of dockless cycle hire schemes have also come into conflict with city governments in China.

The sheer number of bikes in major cities and fact that people can just leave them anywhere once they are finished with them has seen pavements become clogged up, with the authorities having to devote time and resources to clear the bikes away.

As we reported last month, the European Cyclists’ Federation has expressed concerns about the expansion of such schemes within Europe, with a position paper highlighting “ “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.”

> As dockless bike share schemes rapidly expand, European Cyclists Federation expresses fears about ‘disruptive’ approach of some firms

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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