Edinburgh’s Just Eat Cycles is launching pedelec (electric) bikes into its fleet on 2 March. The bikes will make up approximately 1/3rd of the fleet and will be dockable at any of the existing docking stations. Fees are 10p/minute, on top of the existing £1.50 hire charge for the regular bikes. Subscribers pay the minutely fee too but, as with the manual bikes, there is no hire charge).
Congratulations to Edinburgh for beating London’ Santander Cycles (which has the same operators and similar bikes). Edinburgh joins Glasgow, London’s Jump, Lime and Freebike systems, Milton Keynes’ Lime, Brighton and Exeter, in having part or all electric fleets.
An intriguing article from the Times (£), suggesting that eScooters, which are illegal to ride on public land in the UK, but are nonetheless quite widely used in the London commute and elsewhere, could be legalised and regulated, with them being coming under the same regulations as pedelecs – specifically, they can be used in places that bicycles can, as long as their maximum speed is 25km/h (15.5mph). A government consultation on these changes may be on the way soon, followed by urban trials and then possible legislation.
A small scale trial has been running in London’s Olympic Park, by Bird, using technically private land there that is part of the post-Olympic space.
This has the potential to open up the UK to the kind of fierce eScootershare competition seen in many Western cities outside the UK. However, by the time eScootershare gets here, the mode may have cooled off elsewhere -the industry is now moving into a period of consolidation, as investor money burns through and profits are elusive – particularly due to the short “shelf life” of the devices, on the mean streets of Paris, Washington DC and elsewhere.
Scooters, of course, aren’t “active transport” – the exercise benefits for the user are less – particularly as they can be used literately door to door – but they are certainly healthier for other cyclists and pedestrians, than the equivalent, car, taxi or bus usage.
An interesting article posted by Bloomberg recently highlights the challenges and commercial pressures, and public/private conflicts which are going to make bikeshare and other micromobility services a challenge to integrate into a multi-mode, multi-operator journey experience for the major-city commuter. Transport for London (TfL) recently turned down an approach from Lyft, who operate various bikeshares, rideshares and cab hires in North America but not Europe, to integrate the transactional (i.e. booking/paying) element of the Santander Cycles (owned and specified by TfL) into their own multi-modal journey planner. So, a user would no longer need to carry around a multitude of apps on their smartphone, one for each leg of the journey.
It is understandable that TfL would want to keep exclusivity on the transaction layer for their well-used and almost-profitable bikeshare system in London, but there is a big conflict – TfL is publicly funded and is acting as both the regulator (for various commercially-funded dockless/hub-based bikeshare systems) and funder/specifier (for its own bikeshare system). While TfL is presumably at pains to keep its “Chinese wall” separation between the regulatory and service-provider wings of its new mobility offerings in London, it is in practice finding this hard to do, as this case illustrates. TfL would find it hard for one side to mandate the other side to loosen control on the parts of its operations that could result it in making slightly less money – even if it would result in a much improved experience for the user.
It’s not just public bodies that are struggling with the provider/regulator split. Commercial providers, like Uber, are now making serious pushes to be the one-stop shop for people wanting to travel around cities like London, be it on their own cab service or bike fleet, or by public transport. Of course, their apps will only show services that are not directly competing with their own – so only Uber cabs and JUMP bicycles (not any of the other 8+ bikeshare providers in London) but including the tube and railways, as these are a less direct competitor and cabs/bikes can plug gaps in the way railways can’t. Their hope presumably is that if commuters start to seriously use the Uber app to check train running information, the app will be heavily suggesting a cab or bike as a more appealing alternative. Google Maps has been doing this for a long time – it has long been good on public transport, and was, for a time, making Santander Cycles docking stations obvious – now these are all but hidden by Lime bikeshare bike locations.
Unfortunately these kinds of solutions tend to be all take and no give – Uber won’t release its bike or cab locations to anyone else for free, but happily takes the open data feeds on where the tubes are and how they are running. Here, the lack of transactional capability for the public transport section is not such an issue – as users can just tap cards on barriers rather than having to buy a (virtual) ticket in another app. But it’s still an asymmetric travel opportunity. The only real solution is to mandate that all providers of MAAS have to open their live availability data. They are good at doing this in the US – sometimes too good, as companies shut down more quickly than planned as their data shows little profitable use – but it does mean that more innovation is happening there. The transactional leap hasn’t happened however, even where all operators show their assets through open data standards like GBFS or MDS. A true multi-modal, multi-operator app needs to handle the transactional (i.e. financial) part of each leg as well as the availability/discovery piece. While we are in a controlled free-for-all, with little public money contributing, the commercial operators will continue to fight with each other and keep things as siloed as possible – to the detriment of the commuter, the city, and pavement space.
JUMP has a promotion in London today. To tie in with general election day, JUMP are offering two free rides. It is being promoted as an easy free way to (and back from) your polling booth, although I would have thought most polling booths in London would be walking distance. Anyway, you don’t have to use the code to just go to vote, you can in fact use it for any two journeys in London’s operating area, today. The promotion includes two £1 unlock fees, and up to 24 minutes of usage across one or two trips. It’s worth up to £5 in total. (JUMP is 12p/min with no free period after unlocking).
The promotion runs until 11pm tonight only and use code ELECTIONDAY19ED to activate it, on the JUMP section of the Uber app. Out-of-operating-area and banned parking area fines still apply.
Beryl, who operate a small system in the City of London and larger systems in Bournemouth/Poole and Hereford, also have a free-today election themed promotion. No code is needed, and the free period is half an hour for each of two journeys – however you must remember, as always, to finish your journey in a marked hub. The promotion finishes at midnight.
JUMP has increased its charges recently – it used to offer a 5 minute free period after the £1 unlock, but now the 12p/min charge starts from the moment of hire – so most journeys now cost 60p more.
JUMP’s 1300-strong fleet operates in Islington, Camden and Kensington & Chelsea boroughs, along with a small part of south-west Haringey. They are due to move back into Hackney soon. The position of red zones in the app suggests an aspiration to launch in Tower Hamlets soon along with inner south London.
East-London startup Beryl continues to expand their bikesharing footprint – their existing hub-based operations in the City of London, Hereford and Bournemouth/Poole are being joined by a 200-300 bike system in Watford next spring. Of note, this will include 100 electric bikes – a first for Beryl.
Mixed-type systems are fairly rare due to their operational complexity for both users and operators, however both London’s Santander Cycles and Edinburgh’s Just Eat Cycles are also going to part-introduce electric bikes to their fleet. Glasgow already has such a system, but the limited numbers of electrified docks cause confusion and fines for their users.
Beryl are also expanding internationally, launching an up-to-1000-bike system in Staten Island, one of New York City’s five boroughs and not currently served by the 14000 dock-based bikeshare bikes in Manhatten, Brooklyn and Queens. Staten Island has recently withdrawn the permits for Lime and JUMP, who were operating dockless systems in the borough. Beryl’s system here will presumably also be electric, due to Staten Island’s notoriously hilly topography.
Beryl was due to expand in London to Barnet, however they recently withdrew from neighbouring Enfield due to vandalism, so they may have decided that outer-London surburbia’s low density and limited existing cycling infrastructure and opportunity is not for them.
Lime’s “Lime-E” pedelec bikeshare system in London has hit one million rides since launch, 11 months ago – an average of just over 3000 rides per day.
I estimate that Lime currently has around 1500 bikes on the road, up slightly from 1400 in February and 1000 shortly after launch. So, averaging 1300 bikes across 330 days we have a good average utilisation rate of 2.3 trips per bike per day (t/b/d). This compares quite well with around 2.5 for JUMP, the rival dockless pedelec system, and around 3 for Santander Cycles, London’s preeminent public system. (JUMP’s estimate is just for the more popular summer period as they launched this May, while Lime and Santander Cycles both include the tougher winter period – so I would expect JUMP and Lime to end up with around the same year-averaged t/b/d rate after this winter).
Lime also report 2 million km for the 1 million journeys, so an average distance of 2km. This is slightly more than the typical 1.6km journey we see for unpowered systems, although slightly less than the typical 3km journey I would expect for powered systems – perhaps due to constraints in where the bikes are available (although Lime does have the best coverage in London – even after their winter reduction) or the high cost of each journey – Lime is far and away the most expensive of the six central London systems – only Bird’s scooters in the Olympic Park are more, and those are targeted at tourists anyway, so less of an issue.
Both Lime and Mobike have reduced their operating areas in London, for the winter.
Lime have removed their south London “official” area and correspondingly drawn up their unofficial “unserviced” area too. They are out of Croydon, Sutton and Bromley officially, as well as Kingston and Merton. However, south of the river, they are still in Lambeth, Wandsworth and Richmond unofficially, as well as in various North London boroughs.
Lime’s official operating area:
Lime’s implicit operating area – covering the above (white area) plus an area in grey where they don’t guarantee service – i.e. they won’t stock bikes here – but you can end your journey here without penalty:
Mobike have also announced that they are once again reducing their operating footprint, for winter, however they have not yet made the change. Mobike’s current (summer) area:
While this might look like an abandonment of areas, Mobike did do the same in late 2018 and came back in early 2019, so with luck, south London’s provision will again increase next year. However, for commuters or other regular users in south London, the removal of this option must be quite frustrating!
By way of comparison, here’s the operating footprint for the other dockless operator, JUMP:
The other operators in London (Santander Cycles x2, Freebike, Beryl, KU Bikes) are dock or hub-based.
I don’t have any up-to-date information on Bird in the Olympic Park.
South London looks like it will be getting an expansion of the Santander Cycles dock-based bikeshare system – eventually. Southwark council has approved an extension to Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Walworth – 18 new docking stations, but you’ll have to wait up to two years for them to be implemented. It also has plans to extend down Camberwell and Peckham – but these further 21 docking stations may not be appearing until 2023.
The slow rollout is being funded by different parties – TfL along its “red routes”, developers at major housing projects, and the borough itself – the docking stations themselves being the major expense, as they require an electricity supply and internet connection, and have to go through the full planning process with detailed design documents.
The Santander Cycles system currently has 777 docking stations with 20495 docking points, servicing around 8400 bikes, with an average straight-line closest distance between docking stations being just 213m. The Southwark expansion therefore represents around a 5% expansion of the system.
Sooner than this expansion, it is expected that the Santander Cycles system will start to introduce electric-assist bicycles (pedelecs). These were first demonstrated at the London Car Free day in September and will likely debut in “revenue” service soon – hopefully early next year. It is unclear how these will be managed – whether they will be charged at all docking stations, at certain designated docking stations, or whether the batteries will be mechanic-replaced and the bikes will continue to use docking stations like the regular bikes. Already there are two versions of the (non-electric) fleet in simultaneous use – the original PBSC “Bixi” bikes which launched in 2010, and the Pashley-designed bikes (denoted 5xxxx) which launched in 2017.
Meanwhile, central London’s five other bikeshare systems continue to evolve and adapt at pace, with Beryl launching an electric version of their fleet next year, and JUMP, Freebike and Lime already electric.
Beryl Bikes has closed the Enfield part of its London operation on 1 October, having launched just this summer, after suffering high vandalism levels. This leaves the borough with a number of paint-marked hubs but no bikeshare service to occupy them. in London, Beryl continues to operate in the City of London and is due to expand to neighbouring Hackney (along with JUMP). Beryl is not the first operator to try and crack Enfield – Urbo also briefly operated there, before pulling out of the UK altogether.
Separately, Beryl has announced they will be launching in Norwich next spring as sole operator. Ofo previously operated in Norwich, before pulling out and then closing altogether in the UK. This will be Beryl’s fourth urban system, after London, Hereford and Bournemouth/Poole.
All systems below can be seen at Bike Share Map – click on a circle to see the details of that system.
London (Sant.)* London (Beryl)* Stirling Edinburgh* Belfast Liverpool Nottingham Cardiff Swansea Hereford Bournemouth Slough M. Keynes (Sant.) Brunel (Uni.) Surrey (Uni.) Warwick (Uni.)
Exeter Forth Valley
London (Mobike) Bristol Oxford (Mobike) Oxford (Pony) Cambridge
London (Lime) London (JUMP) M. Keynes (Lime)
* Pedelecs announced but not yet launched.
** Including systems where bikes can be left out of a docking station/hub or the adjacent area, but a punitive fee (at least £5) is charged for such an activity.
Not including systems where the minimum hire time is a day or more or not point-to-point, like Brompton Hire, or very small systems (<20 bikes) like Donkey Republic, private systems, e.g. corporate or student-only schemes like Kingston Uni, or systems which are not at least third-gen (i.e. automatic kiosks) like Southport.
Forthcoming systems that have been announced include Norwich (a manual dock-based system from Beryl).