China’s dockless Mobikes launched in London
Mobike, one of China's main bike-sharing companies, released a fleet of 750 dockless bikes in London on Tuesday, going head to head with its rival Ofo, which descended on the streets of the British capital only a week ago.
London is Mobike's second UK expansion after it tested the waters in Manchester. About two months ago in late June, the Chinese bike-sharing company introduced 1,000 of its orange bikes to Manchester, receiving a warm welcome from council officials and cyclists alike. Reviewers have rated Mobike as one of the most popular choices when it comes to hiring a bike because it does not require a docking station and can be tracked with a smart phone app.
Mobike is bringing the first batch of 750 bikes to the west London borough of Ealing. At the launch, Li Yang, Partnerships Manager at Mobike UK, demonstrated how to unlock a bike using a pre-downloaded smart phone app.
"Open the app on your phone, scan the QR code on the bike, and then there you go," said Li.
"I found the bike near the station when I got out of the tube. I just opened the app and scan the code, and I was away! It was great, I cycled down here in about five minutes, it was really convenient," said cycling enthusiast Duncan, who was among the first to try out one of the shiny orange bikes.
Steve Pyer, General Manager of Mobike UK, said Mobike has a very different operating system from the famous Boris Bike, which had become an integral part of the commute in London. Not only is Mobike equipped with the latest technologies, it costs notably less than a Boris Bike, with a rate set at 50 pence per half hour.
Moreover, to prevent users from misplacing their bikes, an issue that has created such a headache for local governments in Chinese cities, Mobike UK has devised a redistribution system and a reward scheme to give users extra credits for placing their bikes at preferred locations.
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"Obviously our bikes are tracked on GPS, so we know where the bikes are all the time. We will know where the bikes are not frequently used and bring them to the busy areas. Our teams are out all the time, trying to make sure we do move them and make them nice and tidy in their preferred locations and trying to improve our service. Our teams are out there successfully doing that," said Pyer.
The Ealing Council had been working actively with the company to allocate special areas for the dockless bikes so that cyclists can leave their bikes at any existing bike stands as well as newly marked Mobike preferred locations.
"We are a very pro-cycling borough, and myself as the leader of the council, I cycle everywhere. We are really pushing hard to try and get more people to cycle and that's why we got Mobike to come and launch their dockless bike hire scheme, because it's a great way to get more people on their bikes. It's cheap, they don't have to buy a bike, it's healthy and it's sustainable. We really want to encourage it," said Julian Bell, the leader of the local council.
Mobike is not the only Chinese bike-sharing company that is eyeing up the London market. About a week ago, Ofo rolled out its smart bike service in the east London borough of Hackney. Both companies harbor ambitious plans of going global with their smart-bike schemes. Ofo has so far entered eight countries outside China, and Mobike has also launched in Japan, Singapore and Italy.