On yer Mo­bike! Cy­cle scheme to leave city

Glossop Advertiser - - News - Char­lotte Cox

MO­BIKE is pulling out of Manch­ester - mak­ing us the first city to lose the bike-shar­ing firm as a re­sult of van- dal­ism and theft.

Ru­mours started to swirl yes­ter­day morn­ing af­ter users opened their apps to find their de­posits had gone.

It later emerged the cash had been re­funded into their bank ac­counts.

And Mo­bike has now con­firmed it is ‘sus­pend­ing’ the dock­less scheme, with the with­drawal of an es­ti­mated 2,000 bikes al­ready in progress, just 13 months af­ter the scheme’s launch.

It comes af­ter bosses made a ‘fi­nal plea’ in Au­gust for a mi­nor­ity in the city to stop steal­ing and van­dal­is­ing their bikes - or face los­ing the scheme ‘within weeks’.

Last July, Manch­ester be­came the first city out­side Asia to launch the scheme, which is also now in 200 cities world­wide in­clud­ing Lon­don, New­cas­tle, Ox­ford and Cam­bridge.

But within weeks, our sis­ter pa­pert M.E.N. had been flooded with re­ports of van­dal­ism – with pic­tures of bikes up lamp posts, flung into the canal, cus­tomised with spray paint or badly dam­aged.

At the time, Mo­bike bosses in­sisted they had ac­counted for losses in their busi­ness plan.

And the prob­lem has not abated. In July 2018 alone, 10 per cent of the fleet, or around 200 bikes, were stolen or van­dalised.

The high crime rate - the worst in the firm’s his­tory - means Mo­bike has been strug­gling to cover its costs. And bosses have now sounded the death knell.

Jan Van der Ven, gen­eral man­ager of Mo­bike UK said: “We are very grate­ful to the City of Manch­ester to have been the first city in Europe to wel­come Mo­bike.

“How­ever, af­ter care­ful eval­u­a­tion, we have de­cided to re­move our bikes and re­fund our users.

“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 said they would con­duct a ‘full re­view’ of their time here, with a view to sub­mit­ting a pro­posal for an ‘af­ford­able model’ to be launched in part­ner­ship with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

He added: “I want to thank the peo­ple of Manch­ester, Trans­port for Greater Manch­ester, Greater Manch­ester Po­lice and the City Coun­cil for all their sup­port.

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

Manch­ester is not the first city to lose the or­ange and sil­ver bikes, which al­low users to hire cy­cles us­ing an app down­loaded to their phone.

They have also been with­drawn from Wash­ing­ton DC and Dal­las - but bosses said this was due to busi­ness rea­sons rather than user be­hav­iour.

Aimed at re­duc­ing conges­tion and pol­lu­tion and pro­mot­ing good health at no ex­pense to the Manch­ester tax­payer, the bikes have been on 250,000 trips cov­er­ing more than 180,000 miles.

Most peo­ple have al­ways used the bikes re­spon­si­bly and ini­tially the firm said it had lee­way in its busi­ness plan to al­low for loss.

But in the months fol­low­ing the roll-out, a sad pic­ture of van­dal­ism and theft be­gan to emerge.

Last month, Mo­bike urged res­i­dents to ‘use but not abuse’ the bikes - or suf­fer the con­se­quences of pros­e­cu­tion, fines and even the with­drawal of the bikes all to­gether.

With the sup­port of po­lice, the coun­cil and trans­port bosses, in­clud­ing cy­cling tsar Chris Board­man, they said they were ac­tively pur­su­ing civil pros­e­cu­tions against those who steal or dam­age bikes.

Warn­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of an end to Mo­bike in Manch­ester was not an ‘idle threat’, a spokesman said they were also fac­ing prob­lems with users tak­ing the bikes home and park­ing them pri­vately.

An aban­doned Mo­bike spot­ted on Col­ly­hurst Road in Manch­ester city cen­tre

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