Categories
Changes

Late May Snapshot

I’ve been keeping an eye on the dashboard to see how UK bikeshare is coping (or even thriving) with a socially distancing world. Here’s an update for the systems* across the UK.

London:

  • Lime, having been closed since late March, has suddenly reopened, with around 250 bikes on the street this morning – along way from the ~1500 earlier this year, let’s see how they ramp up.
  • The JUMP fleet (newly obtained by Lime) is still operating, following a two-day partial hiatus following the transfer, but with much smaller numbers. Having got to nearly 1800 earlier this year, it has been operating through the lockdown with a fleet around 600, although this morning it is down to 400. The long-term future of the fleet is unclear. However it is still seeing excellent usage, including a commuter-style morning peak.
  • The Santander Cycles fleet of 10000 is holding up and afternoon usage is very good, particularly at weekends and bank holidays, including some record simultaneous usage numbers on bank holiday Monday 25th May, where, at one poit, 68% of the fleet was being used. Their technology platform crashed for two consecutive afternoons on what would have been their biggest days, a couple of weekends ago. There is little commuter usage though – confirming it is a railhead-dominated system in normal times. No sign of the previously trialed electric varient.
  • Freebike have redeployed to focus more heavily on hospitals in central an inner London – and seeing some good usage at these hubs.
  • Beryl’s fleet remains very small – there are just 15 now in the City of London and Hackney, while they focus on their larger operations elsewhere in the UK.
  • Mobike continues to dwindle, now around 50 bikes available, a far cry from the nearly 2000 earlier in the year. Almost none of the 50 are actually in their operational area, so they may all have been stolen now.
  • A new electric bikeshare, Human Forest, is in “stealth marketing” mode ahead of a launch this summer. They promise that their services will be free in some form.

Rest of England:

  • Good recreational use numbers for Liverpool, Brighton, Bournemouth and Watford
  • Norwich lower but still good
  • Hereford surprisingly little use compared with the other bigger UK systems.
  • Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Milton Keynes (both) remain closed.

Scotland

  • Glasgow seen wildly high numbers.
  • Edinburgh also being well used although not as well as Glasgow. This must be a little disappointing to the operator. I suspect it is due to the largely fixed docking stations which cannot be easily redeployed to where people want to use them for the newly popular recreational use – e.g. in/around Holyrood Park, Costorphine Hill, Braid Hills, Marine Drive and the old railway-line cycle network. Instead, many of Edinburgh’s docking stations are in the city centre (but no tourists…) or at the university campus (but no students…)
  • Stirling is much less popular. Again, like Edinburgh, its deployment is tourist+student focused and so not set up for recreational use.
  • Forth Valley changed their data feed to a very complex setup which I have not yet been able to get working.

Wales:

  • Cardiff’s very popular
  • Swansea is closed.

Northern Ireland:

  • Belfast closed at the beginning of lockdown and has remained closed. I am sure there were good reasons for this, but it is a huge missed opportunity.

* I’m excluding the smallest systems (those with less than 100 bikes in their fleet earlier in 2020).

Categories
Electric Expansions

Further Details on EScootershare Coming in June

Further details have emerged about this summer’s escootershare UK “revolution”.

  • Capped at 12.5mph – below the 15.5mph for pedelec.
  • You’ll need a provisional or full driving licence to use them.
  • Only escootershare for now – personal escooters are not (yet) to be legalised.
  • Bicycle-style helmets to be recommended but not mandated.
  • Will be able to legally go where bicycles can go (so cycle tracks/lanes, roads but not pavements except where marked).
  • Councils will be able to dictate local policy, e.g. mandatory hub parking.

No word yet from potential operators themselves. One assumes that Lime and Bird will be the obvious two to start, in London, although neither may be in an expansion mood following painful lockdown-related layoffs recently. Bird has run the only escootershare in London and indeed the UK, so far – a small (and expensive – 25p/minute!) operation of around 15 bikes going between three hubs on the nominally private land of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London.

Categories
Electric Expansions

Human Forest

Lime and JUMP may be merging, but the number of bikeshare operators with their eye on London won’t be falling. A new operator, Human Forest, is looking to launch this summer, promising the first “free ebike” bikeshare in the capital. (Freebike – the clue is in the name – also have a free mode of operation on their bikes, if you don’t use the battery-assist.) 

Their website is sparse but includes a photo of their bike – intriguingly apparently without a wheel lock:

Categories
Closures Electric

Uber Offloads JUMP to Lime

Uber has offloaded its JUMP ebikeshare and (outside the UK) escootershare operation, to Lime, and invested a sum of money in Lime. The move has resulted in a large number of job losses at JUMP, as Uber looks to shore up its finances and focus on those currently profitable. It is the end for JUMP which arose from Social Bicycles (whose largest operation was the GRID bikeshare in Phoenix, USA) as their ebikeshare brand, before being bought by Uber.

JUMP had suspended its operations globally except for in Milan and London, perhaps an indication of the two cities where it remained popular. Certainly, the system was (and still is) well used in London, with each bike normally being used for multiple journeys a day – always a healthy sign for a bikeshare system. JUMP’s London fleet is currently 600 bikes – around a third of its 2020 maximum. Following the Lime offloading, the bikes most disappeared from London streets for a couple of days and nights – possibly while the local operating team was digesting the news – but are now back and continuing to be used well.

I understand that Lime, who withdrew their bikes at the beginning of lockdown, will be likely not putting their own fleet of bikes back out on the streets of London, instead using (and presumably rebranding) the JUMP fleet they now own, due to the better hardware and performance of the latter bike. Lime had mainly moved to escootershare anyway, except in London.

It will be interesting to see how London’s bikeshare map looks following the merger of the two biggest electric fleets and the resumption of normal service post-lockdown. Lime operated in more areas of London than JUMP, and also tended to operate in areas without formal agreements with the borough councils – they also have not published an availability fleet, the only UK operator to not do so. They also frequently expanded and shrunk their operating area. JUMP on the other hand has taken a more formal approach. The two had some overlap but also operated in different boroughs – it is not clear whether the permitting in Hackney, for instance, will transfer to Lime. Hackney operates a hub-only permit model, with two seats, currently awarded to JUMP and Beryl.

Categories
Electric Expansions

EScooters and EScootershare to be made Legal in UK in June

The government has today announced that they are fast-tracking making escooters, and by extension escootershare, legal, on UK roads from June. The planned four trial areas, which were announced a few months ago, have been expanded to cover the whole of the, UK, as the government shifts from a prescriptive, cautious approach, to allowing a mode of transport that could have substantial benefits to a population potentially avoiding public transport post-lockdown and roads that will not be able to take the anticipated increase in car volume:

E-scooter trials will also be brought forward from next year to next month to help encourage more people off public transport and onto greener alternatives. Originally set to take place in 4 Future Transport Zones, the trials of rental e-scooters – which will now be offered to all local areas across the country – will allow government to assess the benefits of e-scooters as well as their impact on public space, with the potential to see rental vehicles on UK roads as early as June.

UK Government announcement

The UK’s only active public escootershare service, Bird, which operated a small fleet of around 15 escooters between three hubs on technically private parkland in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London, abruptly shut down at the beginning of lockdown in late March.

Global escootershare firms, including Bird and Lime, have been increasingly frustatingly lobbying the government for legislation, over the last few years. But it has taken a looming transportation crisis in London and after cities, on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a change of Transport Minister, to make it happen. Better late than never.

Bikesharp welcomes these extra micromobility options that soon could be on UK streets, and is also intrigued by the announcement of a “Bike tube” organised by TfL – improved central London bicycle routes that mirror the tube running beneath them.

Categories
Changes Events

How Bikeshare is Reacting to the Covid-19 Pandemic

The recent launch of the UK Shared Micromobility Dashboard has allowed for a closer look at the live situation of bikeshare systems in the UK and how usage and availability has changed in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. To help with this I have added a column comparing the % of bicycles in the fleet compared with the 2020 maximum.

It is also interesting to contrast how different cities’ bikeshare systems have reacted world-wide, with varying national lockdown policies and different user types have resulted in, in some cases, big increases in usages and, elsewhere, a collapse of usage leading in some cases, unviability.

Bikeshare in Lockdown London

London has 11000 bicycles available for automated hire – down a bit from a maximum of 16000 but still a considerable resource.

In summary: 3 of the 10 systems are operating with normal numbers, 3 have closed completely, and 4 have slashed their fleet to under half their size earlier in the year.

The Santander Cycles docked system is just as large as ever – indeed it normally sees a drop in fleet size as summer approaches, down from ~9500 to ~8500 due to maintenance backlogs and/or optimising fleet distribution, but has instead increased to over 10000 – just short of its record. It has also been seeing very high usage numbers – the good weather is helping, but maybe here it is seen as a safer form of transport for a city where most households in the inner city don’t own a car, bike ownership remains relatively low, and bus, metro and train use is being heavily discouraged.

On the other hand, the two systems in London which have steadfastly failed to release live open data feeds about their fleet locations and availability, namely Lime and Bird (London’s only escootershare) quickly shut down near the start of the lockdown. Both businesses have been struggling in general and have shut down in almost all regions globally.

Jump, on the other hand, has remained operating in London – it has shut down in almost every other city it operates in. The London fleet has reduced however to just 20% of its 2020 maximum. The remaining few bikes are consequently being very heavily used. Mobike, similarly, is still operating but down to just 11% of its numbers earlier in the year.

London’s smaller fleets have also reduced in size – Freebike down to 40% of its fleet and operating in a reduced area, and Beryl’s already small fleet down to 26% – Beryl has however launched much larger systems recently in Watford and Norwich, so may be using some of these bikes there.

Finally, the nextbike system in Brunel University and Uxbridge is still running, in contrast to the tiny Kingston University system that has shutdown (which is fair enough, the university itself being almost shut down and university students being the target user). Barnet council’s private system is also still going.

How Bikeshare is Adapting in the rest of the UK

Beryl’s 4 systems in Watford, Norwich, Hereford and Bournemouth are all operating normally. SoBi in Brighton is also seeing normal fleet numbers. Nextbike is more mixed – Cardiff, Stirling, Warwick University and Surrey University are normal, but Belfast, Milton Keynes and Swansea University have closed, and Glasgow is running at half-size, and Exeter is only at 26% of its maximum.

Edinburgh’s Your Bike system is also halved.

Other casualties include Bristol YoBike, the Lime bikes in Milton Keynes, along with Lincoln and Slough, and Oxford and Cambridge Mobike fleets are virtually gone.

Beryl were brave enough to actually launch a new system, in Norwich. It is now the fourth largest system outside of London, due to Edinburgh and Glasgow’s reductions.

Bikeshare Globally in a Covid-19-afflicted World

Some cities are seeing big increases, some are seeing big decreases. This is likely due to different operator policies, system viability, transport alternatives and user profiles:

  • Some operators have chosen to reduce fleets substantially so that they can continue to operate with reduced staff or to take into account increased cleaning/disinfecting regimes.
  • Financial considerations mean that systems which were losing money and not strongly tied to a public operations agreement will take this as an opportunity to shut up shop and take a breather, maybe to restructure the business.
  • Where bikeshare competes with public transit, and the latter’s service is reduced or actively avoided by people social distancing, bikeshare is likely to grow. Conversely, if the private car was the alternative, bikeshare has a weaker case for being a “safer” alternative.
  • Tourist-dominated systems will have seen huge drops as there are many few tourists. Utility-dominated systems will however see much less of a drop, as people still need to do the key errands such as shopping or going to work (where allowed). Commuter-denominated systems will see a big drop as there is much less commuting going on. Finally, recreational systems are probably OK as exercise is recognised as an ongoing need in many locked down jurisdictions.
Categories
Electric Expansions

Edinburgh Launching Pedelec Bikes on 2 March

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).

More details at https://medium.com/@justeatcycles/edinburghs-rentable-e-bikes-to-be-available-from-2-march-and-cost-10p-per-minute-c4cefcdab6a5

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.

Categories
Changes

EScooter Regulations On Their Way in UK?

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.

Categories
Expansions

Multimodal MAAS – Still a Long Journey

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.

Categories
Events

Free JUMP and Beryl Trips Today – but JUMP Increases Fees

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.