Mobike is a Chinese company that offers bike-sharing schemes in 99 cities in Asia. Manchester has been chosen as its 100th and first non-Asian city – a pilot scheme was launched on 29 June 2017. The Guardian said this about it: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/29/chinese-bike-share-scheme-mobike-launches-in-rainy-manchester
So today I went on my first Mobike experience, which I found overwhelmingly positive. Starting by using the app to search for the bike closest to my office, it showed one a stone’s throw away, located in a rear alley.
Arriving at said ginnel, there was no bike to be seen – it was actually on the proper road out front. Anyhow, apart from the slight quirk in the geolocation system, the whole reservation and collection thing worked really well – you scan the QR code on the bike through the app, the lock snaps open and you’re away.
The bike itself rides reasonably well. It’s sturdy (read: heavy, though not as bad as the London equivalent), but once you’re pedalling it’s fine. The single gear is quite low, so at any speed beyond a slow trundle and you’re spinning out. But they’re not for breaking records on, right? For someone who hasn’t ridden single speed since my very first Raleigh Boxer in the 1970s, I did miss the ability to accelerate away from junctions, but on this little outing, at least, I wasn’t unduly harassed by impatient petroly sorts. The brakes are excellent, there are built-in lights and the saddle is comfy.
Pottering around the city I noted that some bad bike infra I’d recently noticed on Albert Square had been badly removed (how do we feel about our planners’ increasing inability to decide how shit a bit of bike infra is before building the ruddy thing with our money and having it removed at even greater cost? This is what they did on Portland Street, and now the same on the Town Hall square).
Anyhow, having pootled around for a while I dropped the bike outside M&S, which ended my session and gave me a summary of my adventure.
I then feigned a shopping trip, wandering through the Arndale to the craft beer place for a well-earned pint.
Having then stocked up on supplies for the evening, I unlocked another Mobike directly opposite the Coop and trundled back to the office, making use of the handy basket. Again, the unlocking and locking procedures ran smoothly and I turned a 15-minute walk into a 6-minute cycle for just 50p.
As an urban bike-share scheme, Mobike is really good. Sturdy, usable, affordable bikes that really work over short distances. I also got lots of attention from passers-by, who were clearly very curious about the bikes. This is a real opportunity to shift cycling from the fringes into the mainstream, getting non-enthusiasts to use a bike for casual trips around town – as indeed currently many non-car-enthusiasts drive and many non-bus-enthusiasts use buses etc. The only negative is how badly Manchester caters for bikes, and a commitment to properly cycle-proof the city (or a lack of one) could make or break the experiment.
In short, if you haven’t already, give them a go!