Crime-hit Mobike suspends Manchester sharing scheme

Image source, Mobike
Image caption,
The cycle hire scheme launched in June 2017 with 1,000 bikes made available

Bike sharing firm Mobike is to pull out of Manchester after losing 10% of its cycles each month to theft and vandalism.

The Chinese firm said too many had been stolen, dumped in canals and bins, had locks hacked off or been set on fire.

Manchester has become the only city among 200 worldwide to lose the service because of persistent crime.

Mobike said it had already "processed refunds" and would start removing its fleet imminently from the city streets.

Mobike General Manager Jan Van der Ven said the company was "very grateful" to the city, which was the first in Europe to adopt the scheme last July.

'Throwing rocks'

However, he said: "As a private company, we have a duty to ensure our revenues cover our costs since, unlike some operators, we do not use taxpayer money to help balance our books.

"Unfortunately the circumstances in Manchester have not made this possible."

He added: "We have all learnt valuable lessons that will help cities continue to make urban life more sustainable, more active and more healthy through cycling."

Greater Manchester cycling commissioner and former Tour de France rider Chris Boardman said: "This is disappointing news and an outcome that we've been preparing for.

"Anti-social behaviour is not a problem unique to Manchester, it has been encountered in other UK cities and other bike operators have found ways to deal with it."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Vandalism has proven a problem worldwide, as this photograph from Berlin shows

The scheme operates along similar lines to London's "Boris bikes", with users paying a deposit to join the scheme and then a rate according to how long they use them.

Unlike other cycle hire schemes, there are no fixed docking stations with users encouraged to "park responsibly" within the scheme's operating zone.

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.

A gang in Ancoats, east Manchester, was filmed throwing rocks at a bike, trying to destroy it, while thieves would break locks and disable electronic tracking systems.

In April the firm announced a price hike from 50p to 69p per half-hour in a bid to counter the damage.

Mobike said it would conduct "a full review of its time in Manchester".

The company said it would continue to operate in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Oxford and Cambridge.

It had warned it could also withdraw from Newcastle but said the "threat to leave has gone" after a review.

"We're keen to sit down with the police and city council and try to work up a new plan to run things more effectively," a spokesman said.

"We know the parts of the river where the bikes get thrown into; we have our truck driving down by the river twice a day."


By Tom Mullen, BBC News

Mobike's distinctive orange-rimmed cycles had become a familiar sight in Manchester, and the scheme was well-used.

I clocked up more than 79 miles (128km) on the bikes, which I found handy for whizzing to the gym or shops, or even all the way to work.

But 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.

To combat this, Mobike began to shrink its operating area and ramp up fines for people who abused the service. But today's decision shows the company's losses had simply become unsustainable.

With Mobike operating successfully in 200 cities around world, people are wondering why it couldn't work here. It's certainly not a great advert for Manchester.

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Image source, Twitter
Image caption,
Mobike sent the announcement to its customers