Categories
Electric Events

Tier Launches eScooter Innovations in London

The Tier Four escooter, unveiled today in London and hopefully coming as part of an escootershare fleet nearby, soon.

Tier, the German micromobility company, launched their “Tier Four” scooter and their “Energy Network” initiative at an event today in London.

Tier is one of around 20 companies vying to run escootershares in parts of the UK as part of the DfT trials, and so are keen to demonstrate the unique aspects of their offering to the market. They already operate a fleet of around 45000 escooters in 70 cities across Europe, which gives them considerable depth of experience.

Tier’s indicator lights, at the end of each handlebar.

The Tier Four escooter contains a number of innovations including user-operated indicator lights, a user-swappable battery, a wireless phone charger, and a foldable helmet contained within a secure box in the scooter, for optional, free use by a user. The helmet includes hairnets for cleanliness between users. The scooter is also designed for safety and comfort with a wide footplate, good lights, dual brakes and 12 inch wheels which both have suspension.

The phone mount/wireless charger, speedometer and (below) the helmet container.

The Energy Network concept involves the operator installing a number of “Powerbox” charging units, containing four batteries, in local stores in a fleet area. Users can swap out their battery at these stores for a fully charged one, using their app to unlock the batteries. The challenge of course is finding a good network of stores willing to host the units and supply the power. If it works, it should cut down on regular operator journeys needed to retrieve scooters and change their batteries.

User swappable battery, mounted in a Tier scooter.

I took a good look at escooter at the launch and gave it a test ride around Potter’s Fields, by Tower Bridge. The scooter comes with a nice digital readout of the speed (topping at 20km/h in the demo area) and the phone mount means a map of exclusion zones and read-out of journey time should be straightfoward. The indicator buttons were a little hard to find but these are likely to be further refined before the Tier Four is rolled out into a publically accessible system.

Some technical notes:

  • 700Wh battery
  • 20km/h max speed (UK allows up to 25km/h)
  • 100kg max load
  • The formal model name is ES-400B

No word on a UK launch yet – talking to staff indicated that, despite the expedited trial process taking place, there are still many steps for local authorities and operators to complete before an operation launches here. But it’s a nice product and undoubtably a positive addition to potential options for urban travel. and I hope to see it in an appropriate UK setting soon.

Published in association with Zag.

Categories
Electric Events

Spin Launches UK’s First Dockless Escootershare in Milton Keynes

The UK escootershare trials are gathering speed, with the launch this weekend of Spin in Milton Keynes – the UK’s first one where journeys can end almost anywhere in the operating zone, rather than in a limited number of hubs. Ginger and Lime are to follow soon – making this a three-way competitive trial of escootershare for the first time in the UK. Ginger already have a small escootershare in Middlesbrough, and Lime already operate a (recently reopened) electric bikeshare in Milton Keynes, so Spin very much are the new kids in the UK, although they have operated various other escootershares in the world, including over 1200 currently in Washington DC.

So far Spin have deployed around 100 escooters, across much of Milton Keynes. The town is large, with a unique (in the UK) structure of 1km square communities connected by a grid of fast (typically 60mph) roads, but with an extensive but little used “redway” parallel cycle network that also joins the communities together but on more wiggly routes. Escooters in the trial can use the same facilities that cyclists can. Hopefully this will lead to a better use of this part of the town’s infrastructure – although interestingly the scooters are allowed on the grid roads too. Only the motorways and trunk roads roads (A5 and M1) are explicitly banned for scooters to go on, in the app (although this also therefore blocks some cycle paths that cross these roads). Users also cannot go in the pedestrianised shopping precient in the town centre, and can ride in, but not end, journeys in the city parks:

No word yet on the Ginger and Lime launches although I would imagine they would be pretty soon in order to not allow Spint to get too entrenched. Ginger recently announced over 15000 miles traveled on their escooters in Middlesbrough which is excellent usage levels for their 50-scooter trial there which has been running for just over a month (4o days). Assuming an average journey of 2 miles (generous – 1-1.5 miles is more typical), that suggests getting on for 200 journeys a day, or 4 per scooter per day. Anything over 2 is a good social use of the asset, and if approaching 4, then that is a good economic use of it as well (i.e. potentially viable for a purely commercial operator). This is a rough calculation, of course, and may include retrievals of the scooters by operators where users didn’t leave them in the hubs. However, with Ginger having suffered numerous operational incidents, this must have been a bit of a relief for them and also demonstrate that escootershare in the UK might well be bigger than anyone has realised. It’s going to be an interesting autumn.

LocationOperatorNumberStatusType
London’s Olympic ParkBird15SuspendedHub-based (3 hubs)
MiddlesbroughGinger50Operating, restricted hoursHub-based (3 hubs)
Milton KeynesSpin110OperatingDockless
Currently escootershares in the UK, as of 23 August 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
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.

Categories
Events

Bikeshare Promotions for Car Free Day

A marked dockless parking bay in the City of London, occupied by Freebikes (on the left) and Beryl Bikes (on the right).

Sunday is World Car Free Day and London is taking part, with much of the City of London closed to cars. It might also be called London Free Bike Day – several of London’s bikeshare providers are taking part by offering free rides on their bikes:

  • Santander Cycles is offering free journeys (of up to 30 minutes per journey) throughout Sunday. Use the app to access the bikes and enter code CarFreeDay2019.
  • Freebike is offering £10 in credit, for use between 11am and 5pm on Sunday. This will give you up to 100 minutes of usage in pedalec mode, or nearly 4 hours in manual mode. Enter code CarFreebikeDay in the app. (Freebike is actually free every other day too – but for 20 minute journeys in manual mode).
  • JUMP is offering £3 in credit on Sunday. This includes the £1 undocking fee, so will get you 20 minutes of free riding in a single journey (£1 for first 5 mins, 12p/min afterwards) or multiple shorter journeys. Use code LONDONCARFREEDAY19 in the app.
  • Lime is offering a free 10 minute ride to be taken at any time throughout Saturday and Sunday, if you are not already signed up with them. Just use code CARFREEDAY19L in the app.
  • Beryl Bikes will reward the 3 people who use their service the most on Sunday with 400 minutes of free ride credit for subsequent rides.

Like all London bikeshare systems, you may incur additional charges if you leave your bike outside of its allowed finishing area (e.g. docking stations or marked hubs).

Car Free Day in the City of London.