Many of today’ sustainable cities have implemented policies and ways to include sustainable transport, especially diverse modes for the everyday person as mentioned in Alan Wann’s lecture. Cities such as Munich and Copenhagen have refocused from a transport association to a mobility association, taking in new ways of mobility including park and ride, bike and ride, car share and bike rental schemes, we also see this slowly being integrated in UK systems as written by Beatley (2003). However, how sustainable are Public Bike schemes?
What seemed like a buzzing new feature in your city a year or two ago has already disappeared, especially in UK cities. Public bike hire schemes have many positives and did look like the future of sustainable transport, and why not? They are smart and sustainable, surely, they can fit into the modern-day city. As Lakhani (2011) writes, this is the cure, what saves lives by increasing physical activity, A study of the Barcelona equivalent of London’s “Boris bikes” found that short, regular cycle rides by users have reduced the number of annual deaths – despite the increased risk from accidents and exposure to air pollution, however, a reduced amount of greenhouse gas emissions. This has also been a feature in many cities across the globe during this decade, tested and tried even in China, as a desire to reduce traffic congestion.
Problems with Public Bike Schemes?
The problem regarding Public Bike Schemes is because the negatives just outweigh the positives. It just seemed like during the 2010s cities in the UK tried following this trend which worked in Asia such as Hong Kong and Singapore (Pidd, 2018), pumping in thousands of millions into these bike schemes, later to find out, most of them do not get used and the other half are vandalised (McIntyre, 2019). Well, this is what it seems like in Newcastle, having many bikes thrown into the River Tyne (Holland, 2019). The main issues that lie with these bikes are theft and vandalism. Mobike had insisted its bikes were theft and vandal-proof but Greater Manchester Police received 17 reports in the first 10 days of the scheme (BBC, 2018) this fact is enough to prove they just don’t belong in UK cities.
The bikes were obviously an easy target for vandals. The sight of stray bikes dumped by canals, broken or even set on fire was becoming more and more common. This is not just the case in the UK though, Copenhagen is also facing these issues. One of the most liveable cities in Europe, facing vandalism issues with their white city bikes, and the repair workshops cannot keep up with the demand. Vandals are targeting GPS systems in all cities (CPH, 2019).
What has happened?
Now, public bike schemes pull out of cities quicker than a freight train. During the past year, ofo, oBike and Urbo became the third dockless operator to withdraw from Britain (McIntyre, 2019). Similarly, in Newcastle with Mobike, another scheme that pulled out of the city to move to London (Holland, 2019) now Manchester has decided the same. Mobike has needed to refund all of its customer’s wallet balance. Studies show that these dockless operators just don’t work anymore, rapidly losing popularity in the UK, once covering 617km2 at their peak across the country, now only 136km2. Does this show sustainability? Manchester at one point was losing 10% of its 2,000 Mobikes each month at one point due to vandalism.
In the future, there could be better tracking devices on the bikes, or bikes could be locked to street furniture or just any way that would make it harder for people to throw them into rivers or canals. Or should we give up on these public bike schemes before it is too late? This is what seems to have happened in China.
BBC (2018). Crime-hit Mobike suspends Manchester sharing scheme. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-45422065 [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].
Beatley, T. (2003). “Planning for Sustainability in European Cities: A Review of Practice in Leading Cities”. In: R. LeGates and F. Stout, ed., The City Reader, 5th ed. New York: Routledge, pp.448 – 457.
Canal and River Trust (2019). A damaged Mobike pulled from a Manchester waterway.. [image] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/05/theft-and-vandalism-drive-mobike-out-of-manchester [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].
CPH (2019). Copenhagen city bikes struck by wave of vandalism. [online] Available at: http://cphpost.dk/news/copenhagen-city-bikes-struck-by-wave-of-vandalism.html [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].
Getty Images (n.d.). A crane unloads shared bikes from trucks in Xiamen. [image] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2018/may/01/unexpected-beauty-china-bicycle-graveyards-share-bikes-in-pictures [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].
Holland, D. (2019). Mobike is pulling all of its bikes out of Newcastle and Gateshead. Chronicle Live. [online] Available at: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/mobike-pulling-bikes-out-newcastle-16202312 [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].
Lakhani, N. (2011). Bike rental schemes ‘saving lives in cities’. Independant. [online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/bike-rental-schemes-saving-lives-in-cities-2332079.html [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].
Mobike (n.d.). Mobikes expands across Newcastle. [image] Available at: https://mobike.com/uk/blog/post/mobike-expands-newcastle [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].
Newcastle Chronicle (2019). Mobikes being dragged out of the tyne by the Port of Tyne Clearwater. [image] Available at: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/mobike-pulling-bikes-out-newcastle-16202312 [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].
Pidd, H. (2019). Mobike pulls out of Manchester citing thefts and vandalism. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/05/theft-and-vandalism-drive-mobike-out-of-manchester [Accessed 29 Dec. 2019].