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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
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
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
Changes

Edinburgh To Replace Marked Hubs with Physical Docking Stations

Edinburgh’s Just Eat Cycles will replace all its marked hubs (currently marked by two bikes with a chain between them, painted rectangles on the ground, or virtually in the app with no mark on the ground) with physical ones, in an effort to combat increasing vandalism and theft of bikes. The organisation announced that it is replacing its marked hubs. Doing so will increase expense and reduce operational flexibility but may reduce the vandalism rates by presenting the bikes to passers-by as more obviously locked to a stand rather than “abandoned”.

Edinburgh’s physical docking stations do not have power or networking, so should be less expensive than London’s “built” stations (the bikes are very similar in Edinburgh to London and run by the same organisation). Instead, the docking stations will be semi-portable so will retain an element of flexibility, and likely avoid the expensive and time consuming planning application process, again a major expense for London’s system.