Cardiff bike renting scheme Nextbike has returned to the city after being suspended in November 2021 for two months due to vandalism, theft and threats on staff.
300 bikes were stolen since the company first started operations in 2018, with 130 of those taken between August and November 2021. The company also scrapped a further 260 bikes due to damage caused by vandalism, with some set on fire or dumped in rivers.
Nextbike managing director Krysia Solheim said in November the amount of vandalism and theft was "staggering", and if it continued the company would have no option but to cancel operations permanently.
The two-month suspension has allowed the company to repair its fleet and add more bikes though, and Nextbike will initially make 400 bikes available, rising to 900 in the next two months across 11 new e-bike stations introduced across the area.
Back in 2018, Manchester became the first area to lose its hire bikes due to vandalism, however, its new Bee Network Hire Bike scheme has proved to be hugely successful, suggesting it is possible for these services to flourish in areas that have proved a struggle previously.
London's Santander Cycle hire scheme had its most successful year in 2021, with new users applauding them for their convenience, and helping women to feel safe travelling after dark.
On Nextbike's return, Solheim said: "It’s a relief to be back on the streets of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. We know our customers have missed having access to the Ovo Bikes schemes.
"Bike share is a fantastic, affordable, and healthy way to move around our towns and cities – not to mention the fact that it’s one of the best ways of reducing harmful transport emissions.
“We’ve enhanced bike security, we’ve given our staff body cameras, and we’ve also increased staff numbers by almost 25%."
She also revealed Nextbike's IT team has introduced new features in the app to help with the reporting of stranded bikes and provide better information for users. Greater fines will be imposed on people for returning bikes outside of stations too, de-incentivising customers from simply dumping them wherever they fancy.
Nextbike will also work closely with South Wales Police too, in an attempt to ensure similar circumstances don't happen again.
Inspector Darren Grady said: "The minority who steal or vandalise these bikes ruin the facility for others and we are committed to working with Nextbike and the local authority to continue clamping down on this mindless behaviour.
"Abuse of Nextbike employees, theft and vandalism will not be tolerated and our Neighbourhood Policing Teams are extremely proactive in arresting those responsible.
"We are delighted to see the bikes back on the streets and we appeal to the community to help protect the scheme."
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