E-bike hire scheme leaves Bristol due to 'extensive and relentless' vandalism

Big Issue bikes will be withdrawn from the city this weekend

Big Issue ebikes
(Image credit: Big Issue ebikes)

An e-bike hire scheme is to withdraw from Bristol due to "extensive and relentless levels of vandalism" over its seven months of operation

Big Issue bikes launched earlier this year in the English city, the first place in the UK to get them, promising a "comfortable and convenient alternative to fossil fuel-based transportation". However, just months later, the scheme is to be paused.

The organisation behind it claims that 10% of its bikes are damaged every day, and they have already been forced to withdraw 200 bikes from operation. Subscribers were contacted on Thursday this week.

In a statement, Big Issue Bikes said: "We have more e-bikes destroyed in Bristol in one week than in all our facilities combined anywhere else in the world."

The statement also called on local authorities to find solutions to the problem in the city, otherwise it will be come a "no-go zone for all providers looking to introduce e-bike options".

Bristol is home to Voi e-scooters too, which have proved much more successful, and are ubiquitous around town.

The Big Issue bike scheme will be paused from this Saturday, 20 August.

“It is with sincere regret that we are announcing a pause to our current open, public-rental e-bike service in Bristol, from the coming weekend," the Big Issue statement reads.

“Since we launched in the city six months ago, we have experienced extensive and relentless levels of vandalism to our e-bikes.

“We have taken many measures to try to overcome this issue, including making changes to the design of the e-bikes and trying to work with the local authorities, the police and our subscriber community.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the vandalism has not reduced. Having begun with a fleet of over 400, we currently have around 200 e-bikes on the street and approximately 10 per cent of these are damaged every day.

“In practice, this means that our entire fleet is vandalised every two weeks. We have more e-bikes destroyed in Bristol in one week than in all our facilities combined anywhere else in the world.

“It is disappointing that the actions of a minority of people means we are left with no choice but to pause the current scheme...

“We urge the local authorities – namely Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority – and Avon & Somerset Police to work with us to see if there is a way to avoid a permanent removal of our current public rental service from the city’s mix of safe and affordable green transport options.

“It is clear to us that if this issue is not fixed with our e-bikes, Bristol will be a no-go zone for all providers looking to introduce e-bike options.”

“Since we first launched the service in February 2022, over 7,000 people have registered to use Big Issue e-bikes.

“We would like to thank our regular and many customers for their support and apologise for the inconvenience and disappointment that we know this announcement will cause.

“We sincerely hope that this is a temporary decision and that, with the support of the police and local authorities, we are able to resume and increase the open, public rental service in Bristol.”

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