The wheels are coming off this British city’s bikesharing scheme

By number of bicycles, Mobike is the largest app-based bikesharing company in the world and in the space of just three years has launched its service in hundreds of cities globally.

While it hasn’t necessarily been smooth sailing in every city that it operates, Manchester, England is proving to be its most challenging location to date. Why? Because a small number of people are vandalizng, hiding, and stealing its bikes, as well as throwing them in rivers and canals, and even hanging them from lampposts.

The situation has become so serious that the Chinese company is threatening to abandon Manchester, a move that would mark its very first city departure.

China-based Mobike launched its dockless bikesharing scheme in the English city in June 2017 — its very first entry into the European market. And while the bikes have proved popular with many people — they have so far provided 250,000 rides covering more than 180,000 miles — problems soon began to surface.

Steve Milton, responsible for Mobike’s global communications and marketing, told the Guardian that the losses are not sustainable. “We are going to have to draw a line under this at some point,” he said. “Everyone is unhappy with the current situation. Users are unhappy because they can’t find bikes when they want them, the police are unhappy because they’re having to waste time dealing with petty vandalism, and we are unhappy because we aren’t delivering the service we want.”

Milton said that in July alone, 10 percent of Mobike’s two-wheelers were trashed or disappeared, though he declined to give a specific number. Recovering missing bikes has been pretty much impossible as their locks, which contain a GPS tracker, are usually broken off when they’re taken.

In other comments, Jan Van der Ven, Mobike’s U.K. general manager, said the current situation meant that the company was being pushed to the limit.

It’s not just Manchester

But Manchester’s first-ever cycling commissioner, Olympic cycling gold medalist Chris Boardman, was keen to point out that the city isn’t the only one facing difficulties with its bikesharing scheme. Indeed, rival service Gobee earlier this year quit France — it operated in three cities there — after a whopping 60 percent of its bikes were either destroyed, stolen, or modified for private use. In neighboring Belgium, the problem was even worse, with up to 90 percent of Gobee’s bikes stolen or damaged before it decided to leave that country, too.

Gobee said at the time that vandalizing the bikes had apparently become “the new hobby of individuals, mostly minors, encouraged by content widely distributed and shared on social networks.”

In the U.S., too, Baltimore Bike Share had to temporarily halt its service because some of its bikes were being wrecked or stolen, while a scheme in Philadelphia saw 50 bikes disappear in two years.

With Mobike’s presence in Manchester now hanging by a thread, the local police department is promising to thoroughly investigate reports of suspected theft and vandalism, and to “hold those we find breaking the law to account.” Whether that will be enough to save the scheme there remains to be seen.


Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.

Lime’s dockless electric bikes land in London, but its scooters aren’t allowed

Lime has landed in London with its dockless bikesharing service. The pedal-assisted electric bikes are unlocked via Lime's app and can reach speeds of 15 mph. It plans to have 1,000 bikes on the streets before the end of the year.
Emerging Tech

NYPD has added a bunch of quadcopters to its crime-fighting kit

The New York Police Department is to start using quadcopters in its crime-fighting work. Trained cops will have access to various models for use in particular situations that include search-and-rescue, and hostage situations.

SatPaq’s satellite messaging is a lifeline for when you’re off the grid

The great outdoors can be a beautiful place, but it's also fraught with danger and hazards. Make sure you're always able to connect with the world with SatPaq's satellite messaging accessory.

REI’s Cyber Week deals will save you up to 65 percent on top brands

Cyber Week deals are still going strong at REI, with discounts lasting up until this weekend. If you've been meaning to follow REI's mission and hit the outdoors, now is the perfect time to save big on outdoor gear and more.

Cyber Monday Extended: Best Cyber Week Smartwatch Deals

Cyber Monday is known for its awesome online sales. Smartwatches, fitness trackers .. they both will see deep discounts. Now is your chance to score a new wearable at rock bottom prices.

Columbia’s latest Star Wars jacket will keep you as warm as a Wookiee

Columbia Sportswear introduced a limited edition parka based on the jackets that were worn by the crew that filmed The Empire Strikes Back in 1979 that are sure to be a coveted item for Star Wars fans.

REI slashed the price of the Garmin Fenix 5, but the sale ends today

The Garmin Fenix 5 is a multisport fitness watch, built almost entirely for use with just about any indoor or outdoor activity you can think of. From now until the end of the day on December 1, you can save $150 on a brand new model.
Emerging Tech

The best solar chargers for your phone, tablet, and other battery-powered gear

Looking for a gizmo that can help you charge your phone while on the go? Here, we've outlined the best solar chargers on the market, whether you're looking to charge your phone once, twice, or three times over.

The best sleeping bags to help you conquer the cold, no matter what season it is

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.

Onak 2.0 is an origami-inspired folding canoe for waterborne adventures

The Onak 2.0 is an origami-inspired folding kayak that measures 15 feet in length when fully assembled, yet can breakdown and be stored in a small, easily transported box making it a great option for apartment dwellers.

Forget pumps. This innovative filter purifies H2O in 8 seconds flat

The Grayl Geopress water purification system removes more than 99 percent of all bacteria, cysts, and viruses from water in just eight seconds, providing clean drinking water to travelers and outdoor adventurers.

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.