London Freebike to Expand to Walthamstow and Leyton

London’s Freebike mixed-mode bikesharing system has announced that it is expanding to the southern half of Waltham Forest, likely including Walthamstow and Leyton, on Sunday 22nd September, with plans to eventually cover the rest of the borough. Freebike’s fluorescent yellow bikes launched in June in the City of London and have already expanded to Islington, as well as parts of Camden, Westminster, Lambeth and Kensington & Chelsea boroughs, and a small part of Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

Freebike is a dock-based system – out of dock journey finishes are permitted but with a variable surcharge. Users can choose whether use the battery for electric assist, or pedal manually without any boost – the latter option is completely free for the first 10 minutes. Users can even programme the electric profile in their app, allowing for a more generous electric boost if desired.

Waltham Forest has been without a bikesharing system since Urbo and Ofo both pulled out early last year. London’s other bikeshare systems, including Santander Cycles, have never made it this far north-east. Like Urbo, Freebike’s docking stations are marked out on the ground with paint or tape and bikes are just left in the space rahter than being physically docked.

Freebike LondonCasual (Manual)Casual (Electric Assist)
Membership Fee£0£0
Start Fee£0£0
Usage Fee50p/10 min£1/10 min
Usage Credit20 minutes
Out-of-Hub End Fee£1 (£3.50 in City)£1 (£3.50 in City)
Out-of-Hub Start Credit

0.5p/min to pause rental, up to 20 hours maximum. £5 fee if paused for 20 hours. £50 fine if parking in a “red zone” or outside the operating area altogether.

Northampton’s Bikeshare Closes

Cycle CoNNect, a small Hourbike dock-based bikeshare system in Northampton, has closed last week.

The system launched in 2014 with council funding but had been run on a commercial basis since 2017. The system had become unsustainable after vandalism and increased operational costs.

It launched with 25 bikes, reaching a maximum of 46 bikes in spring 2018. At its closure it had 14 docking stations.

YoBike Pulls Out of Southampton

Yobike’s Southampton operating area after closure, with one remaining bike.

Yobike, a UK-based dockless bikeshare operator, has pulled out of Southampton, citing vandalism, following an announcement in mid-August. Their app shows the Southampton operating area remaining, but with just one bike nominally available. The service launched in September 2017.

The late summer seems to be a time of reckoning for dockless bikeshares in the UK, as the long vacation and warm weather encourage both high usage or, for poorly used systems, high vandalism rates. Yobike complained of vandalism problems in August last year.

The system reported 32000 rides in its first 11 months. It launched with a reported 300 bikes. This would suggest a rate of just 0.3 t/b/d (trips per bike per day). At launch they planned to eventually increase to 700 bikes. However, a February 2019 snapshot revealed just 33 bikes available.

Yobike remains operating in Bristol (below), with approximately 360 bikes available for hire currently. They reported around 300 trips (1 t/b/d) in the week after launch in May 2017. In June 2017 they reported 800 bikes and 1800 journeys/day but also vandalism issues. In March 2018 it reported 1000 bikes and 1500 journeys/day. They operate at £1/hour with a 50p discount for starting a journey out-of-zone:

Yobike BristolCasualAnnual Member
Membership Fee£0£39 (£29 for students)
Start Fee£0£0
Usage Fee£1/hour,
£5 max/day
£1/hour,
£5 max/day
Usage CreditN/A 2 x 1-hour rides/day
Out-of-Hub End Fee£5+£5+
Out-of-Hub Start Credit50p50p

Half-year memberships are also available. Maximum journey 24 hours.

Yobike’s continuing system in Bristol.

Exeter Co-Bikes Full Relaunch Today

The relaunch of Exeter’s Co-Bikes electric dock-based system has taken place today, following some previous operations the last few weeks. You can see the system live on Bike Share Map.

The new fee is:

Casual
Membership Fee£0
Start Fee£0
Usage Fee£1/20 minutes
Usage CreditN/A
Out-of-Hub End Fee£24+
Out-of-Hub Start CreditN/A

Journeys from 8-24 hours are capped at £24. Maximum hire is 24 hours – bikes hired for longer are assumed lost and the user is charged a hefty penalty.

Just Eat Cycles Sees Record Hires During Edinburgh Festival Month

Edinburgh Just Eat Cycles journeys in August 2019.

Edinburgh‘s Just Eat Cycles has reported a record month in August, the month during which the Edinburgh Fringe and Edinburgh International Festival takes place and the capital’s population significantly increases. The system launched in September last year, just too late for the previous Fringe/Festival month. This month, the system managed 17,529 rides, with around 400 bikes available through the month across 70 docking stations. This represents around 1.5 trips per bike per day (t/b/d). The system including the above graphic showing routes taken. Just Eat Cycles has since added some additional bikes in, in early September, and now has around 500 available.

Just Eat Cycles publishes its trip and availability data as open data. The Trip data is published within a day of the trips happening, an impressively quick turnaround. They also publish regular maps showing routes taken. The above map, for August, includes at least one trip to Edinburgh Airport and another trip to Cramond Island (accessible by a causeway only at low tide). The former doesn’t have a docking station so journeys incur an out-of-station fee, but the journey may still have been cheaper than tram/parking surcharges. The latter does at least have a docking station nearby, back on the mainland.

Monthly journeys, bikes and average trips/bike/day for Edinburgh, so far:

MonthTrips*Avg BikesTrips/Bike/Day
September 2018** 22771401.1
October 201837991860.7
November 201840473020.5
December 201836623600.3
January 201947502330.7
February 201942221081.4
March 201965493410.6
April 201981764410.6
May 2019141602581.8
June 2019102142431.5
July 2019122903091.3
August 2019175293861.5

* Journeys on the last day of the month are normally missing from the trips data.
** Launched mid-month.

Hopefully Edinburgh will get to 2 t/b/d soon – a figure which is, very roughly, is a good benchmark for a well used, long-term-viable system. Edinburgh’s design means it can very easily move docking stations around, to adjust to corridors of good use (and low vandalism), although this has to be balanced against the frustration of loyal users finding their docking station has gone.

Bournemouth & Poole See Good Bikeshare Usage During Festival

Bournemouth and Poole’s Beryl Bikes system is reporting 2500 journeys on their fleet during the four days of the Bournemouth Air Festival. In time, the system is planned to have around 1000 bikes, however currently it has around 250 bikes available so this suggests an average of 2.5 journeys/bike/day. These are encouraging numbers, similar to what is seen in London’s Santander Cycles system and possibly larger than any other system in the UK apart from nearby Brighton, showing that the south coast of England is a bit of a winner for bikeshare systems.

It does also suggest that Beryl might have “cracked” how to make a commercially viable, affordable and sustainable mid-size system. Beryl Bikes are dock-based, but the docks are simply painted on the ground.

Santander Cycles Expands to SE London – Eventually

London’s main bikeshare system, Santander Cycles, is looking like it is finally going to grow again, after London’s Cycling Commissioner has announced a small expansion, covering the Rotherhithe and Bermondsey areas. Despite being close to the centre of London, this area has not had Santander Cycles before. The system last expanded in February last year, to Brixton. Since then, the mobility-as-a-service industry has continued to evolve, and in the absence of eScooter systems (not allowed under UK law), there are now five other bikeshare systems operating in central London, including two virtual-dock-based systems (Freebike and Beryl Bikes) and three dockless systems (Mobike, Jump and Lime), providing some competition to Santander Cycles, although it still has more bikes (and, likely, more journeys-per-day) than the rest put together.

The expansion will happen once the latest Cycleway, C4, has been fully constructed, and as this doesn’t have an exact end-date (Spring 2020 is the current plan), it also means there is no date commited to the corresponding expansion of the bikeshare. However, as TfL has said several times that there were no plans for expansion, while equivalent systems in New York and other major cities have continued to grow regularly, the change of policy is encouraging.

Rotherhithe and Bermondsey have long asked for bikeshare. Mobike has intermittently operated in the area, but there are many possible journeys that would integrate with the existing Santander Cycle docking station footprint.

Lincoln Goes Electric

Hirebike, the bikeshare system in Lincoln, has announced that pedelecs (electric bikes) are joining its existing manual system. A number of docking stations have been converted to take electric bikes as well as manual ones, and at least one electric bike is available for hire, along with the existing non-assist bikes. Lincoln is a small city surrounded by a number of villages, some with docking stations, the distances mean it makes a lot of sense to have some electric capability in the fleet. Although the area is mainly flat, central Lincoln is on a hill – indeed the street between the old and new towns (and depicted in the graphic above) is called “Steep Hill” so, for example, students getting to the cathedral area, from the university campus on the waterside, will no doubt appreciate the easier pedalling.

Lincoln’s system is quite small (around 90 bikes, including 1 electric currently, across 26 docking stations) but usage will no doubt be boosted by this innovation.

Brighton’s Popular Bikeshare Sees Charges Increase

BTN Bike Share, an electric hybrid system launched in the tourist and student city on 1 September 2017, has increased its fees for the first time. Previously, casual hires were £1 for up to 35 minutes and then 3p/minute. They are now: £1/hire + 3p/minute. Annual subscriptions are now £72/year with 30 minutes/day ride time (down from 1 hour).

From 1 August 2019 (changes from previous shown in brackets):

CasualAnnual Membership
Membership Fee£0£72
Start Fee£1£0
Usage Fee3p/minute3p/minute
Usage CreditN/A
(was 35 minutes/jny)
30 minutes/day
(was 60 minutes/day)
Out-of-Hub* End Fee£2£2
Out-of-Hub* Start Credit£1£1

* Bikes parked near hubs (e.g. if the hub is full) are not considered to be out-of-hub.

The changes in charges seem designed to encourage shorter journeys, which, as this is a popular, well used system, is likely to make it more efficient. BTN Bike Share may in fact be the UK’s most well used bikeshare system.

Trip Numbers

Some data on usage between the launch and July 2019 (i.e. 22 months):

  • 1.25 million miles travelled (2 million km). With an average of 320 bikes over 570 days that means each bike does an average of 11km a day – impressive!
  • 650,000 journeys. This suggests an average journey of 3km and a typical 3-4 trips per bike per day (t/b/d). 3km is higher than the ~1-2km average distance travelled on a bikeshare bike across other cities, but then research does suggest electric bikeshares typically do result in longer journeys.
  • 80000 subscribers. This sounds like a hugely impressive number considering the population of Brighton – so I wonder if this is actually the number of distinct users, including visitors taking one-off trips. I can’t believe that 80000 people are paying the annual membership fee.
  • As of July 2019, the system reports they have 570 bikes and 68 hubs. On Bike Share Map we’ve seen a maximum of 459 bikes available for hire, seen at the end of May 2019 – a discrepancy of 24%. However, the number of hubs is correct.

Our own t/b/d research, looking at docking station data, suggests:

Q1Q2Q3Q4
2017No data2.3
20181.54.75.43.0
20192.83.9

We detected approximately 690,000 journeys which is broadly consistent with the published number. We notice that Brighton sees around 10% more journeys on weekdays than weekends.

(Data courtesy of James Todd.)

The system is publically funded, with the council investing £290,000, and the national government investing £1.6 million. The council receives back 50% of profits above £330k made by the operator.

BTN Bike Share is operated by Hourbike on behalf of Brighton & Hove City Council. It uses Social Bicycles pedelec bikes, an older version of those used by JUMP systems. Social Bicycles subsequently created the JUMP brand for their electric bikes and were then bought by Uber.

It remains to be seen if the fees increase will dent the popularity of the system, and whether it will cause a shift towards being more tourist used – a less price sensitive segment. Any weekend/weekday t/b/d change should be detectable in due course.

Exeter’s “Co Bikes” Electric Bikeshare Relaunches with a Larger, Hybrid System

Exeter’s bikeshare, Co Bikes, relaunches on Friday, having been suspended in early June – thus missing the peak summer season.

The system was, and still is, an electric system supplied by nextbike and operated by a local cooperative (hence the co- in the name), and promises a substantially larger system of “just under 100 bikes” and 14 docking stations. Nextbike appears to be handling telephone support as their London number is listed as the number for users to call with queries.

Bike Share Map is already showing a couple of bikes available and 7 docking stations operating, ahead of Friday’s launch.

The main change from the older system which ran from October 2016 until June this year, is that it is hybrid – it has the ability to allow journeys to start and finish away from the docking stations. It will also, according to the publicly, be much larger – up to 5 times the size. The older system had a maximum of 20 bikes available, scattered across 7 docking stations which were well placed at railway stations, university campuses and key civic points but ultimately limited the possible journeys. Bikes in the older system could in fact be left out of docking stations but this was not encouraged by the operator.

The combination of expensive electric bikes which can be left anywhere in any British city always brings concerns about theft and vandalism, but hopefully Exeter will succeed where Derby, Manchester, Stockport and Newcastle have failed.