As a followup to the recent story that Edinburgh is consolidating its docking stations and hubs, closing some and replacing the remaining virtual ones with physical anchors, I took a look at the various types that are currently deployed in the city by Serco, the operator.
Virtual hub [see above]. Nothing on the ground – the hub appears in the app and on the data feed, but only the bikes (if any) indicate the presence of the docking station. In this particular case, the app/data showed no bikes available, but there was one bike there – presumably it was marked as disabled or there was a GPS issue, although at a glance it appeared to not have anything wrong with it. Certainly, not having anything on the ground does make it feel that it is just an abandoned bike.
Marked hub (mat) [see below]. Edinburgh is not using painted/signposted hubs which we are starting to see in some London boroughs. Instead, they have a plastic mat on the ground advertising the system and providing a physical “box” to park the bike in – complete with indications of where the front and back wheels should go. Sadly, the mats are not doing well in the Edinburgh climate – in this example, the nearby mat has been partially folded over on one side. The further mat has left the ground entirely and is wrapped around the tree in the background. The mats are also not nearly big enough for the numbers of bikes currently parked there. Being beside a construction site is undoubtably not helping either!
Marked hub (chain). Although I didn’t see this on my most recent trip, Edinburgh also used, at least at the start of the system, hubs which were marked out by two of the bikes (not rideable) at either end of the hub, with a chain passed through their front wheels. Users were instructed to park between the “marker” bikes. This is also a temporary hub as it is very easy for someone to move the bikes or chain. However it does act as something on the ground – and above ground level – increasing visibility of the hub.
Dumb dock mats [bottom]. This is Edinburgh’s version of docking stations. They are once again not fixed to the ground so are presumably temporary, although more permanent than the solutions above due to their size/weight. I am not 100% clear on whether the bike is locked to the dock when it is parked in it, but the size and postioning of the dock gives a good indication of how users should position their bikes at the end of a ride, as well as acting as a clear indication of why the bikes are there and potentially making the bikes less susceptible to vandalism due to not appearing to be “abandoned”. Users are allowed to park adjacent to the docking station if it is full, I believe.
There are various other docking mechanisms that Edinburgh hasn’t used yet – secured dumb docks, smart docking stations (with power and possibly data), painted and/or signposted hubs, and fences/cable locks. They key with most of these alternatives is they require physically attaching something to the ground, and a key aspect of how Edinburgh operates is with the flexibility of being able to move the hubs – regardless of type – based on demand and vandalism. The last one (fences/cable locks) makes use of existing ground-secured infrastructure but would require a slight redesign of the particular bike that Edinburgh uses.
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.
Serco, who run the London “Santander Cycles” and Edinburgh “Just Eat Cycles” urban bikeshare systems, showed off the electric bike varient of their Pashley-built bikes, at a Car Free Day event at Tower Bridge in London and in Edinburgh, yesterday.
The Santander Cycles twitter account revealed some details of the new pedelecs: like the regular bikes, they are assembled by Pashley in Stratford upon Avon, they have a 250W motor which provides 70N/m of torque. In London, there is already electric competition, with Jump, Lime and Freebike all providing powered alternatives, while in Edinburgh, for now, Serco’s system remains the only bikeshare option.
In London, Serco or Transport for London haven’t yet announced their plans for how or when they would offer electric bikes as part of the existing fleet. However in Edinburgh, Serco have already announced that the electric bikes will be coming.
As both the London and Edinburgh bikes shown appear identical, and Edinburgh’s docking stations don’t have power (indeed some are just marked rather than with physical anchor points), it is suspected that both systems will use operator-managed swappable batteries rather than dock-based battery charging.
London’s systems is run by Serco as an operational contract for Transport for London, while Edinburgh’s system is run under a more general specification agreement with Transport for Edinburgh where Serco have more freedom – and incentive – to innovate, such as moving docking station locations (e.g. to manage poor usage or vandalism) and changing redistribution strategies.
Beryl has published a couple of snapshots of how they are doing in Hereford and Bournemouth.
They’ve just finished a free bike week in Hereford, where they made their service free to use. They’ve reported 9500km travelled during the week. Assuming an average journey of 1.5km, this equates to 6000 rides in 7 days, or 900 a day. Across the fleet of 125, that suggests over 7 uses per bike per day (t/b/d) – great! They also reported just over 10000 journeys in their first month (this included the free bike week). This suggests an average t/b/d of just under 3 – great numbers.
They’ve also published this graphic showing where in Bournemouth (& adjoining Poole on the left) their bikes are being used – almost everywhere it seems!
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).
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.
Casual (Electric Assist)
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.
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:
£39 (£29 for students)
£1/hour, £5 max/day
£1/hour, £5 max/day
2 x 1-hour rides/day
Out-of-Hub End Fee
Out-of-Hub Start Credit
Half-year memberships are also available. Maximum journey 24 hours.