Chinese firm Mobike is threatening to remove its Manchester fleet citing vandalism and theft.
The silver and orange bikes have been found in canals, strung up lampposts, and many have had their locks and inbuilt GPS trackers removed.
Stolen bikes have been resprayed a range of colours to hide their original origin, and in July this year 10 per cent of the Manchester fleet was ‘lost’ or vandalised.
Mobike, supported by police, the council and transport bosses, is actively pursuing prosecutions against those who steal or damage bikes and people have been asked to report incidents.
Jan Van der Ven, Mobike’s UK general manager told the Manchester Evening News: “As a private business, we are only viable if our revenues cover our costs, and that is not possible with the current levels of bike loss in Manchester.
“For that reason, we have sat down with representatives from Manchester council, Greater Manchester Police and TfGM, and have agreed a range of measures to help protect our bikes.”
Steve Milton, Mobike’s global communications and marketing leader told the Guardian: “This is not an idle threat. It’s not PR … The losses are not sustainable. We are going to have to draw a line under this at some point.”
“Everyone is unhappy with the current situation. Users are unhappy because they can’t find bikes when they want them, the police are unhappy because they’re having to waste time dealing with petty vandalism and we are unhappy because we aren’t delivering the service we want.”
The pay-to-ride service uses an app, and the bikes can be found in 200 cities in 19 countries. Manchester was Mobike’s first foray in Europe, and it will decide later this month if it will stay.
Since arriving in the city last June, the bikes have been collectively used for 250,000 trips, covering more than 180,000 miles – though with the miles covered by stolen bikes added in, the numbers would likely be higher.
Initially, it would cost users 50p to cycle per half-hour, but when bikes began to go further afield, a £20 fine was introduced if they were taken outside of central Manchester.
The company also has bikes in Newcastle Gateshead, where bikes have also been vandalised and Mobike is assessing its position there.
Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner, Chris Boardman has worked hard to encourage cycling in the area – introducing Dutch style cycle lanes and walking routes called Beelines.
Former Olympic champion Boardman has commented: “It’s a real shame that a small minority of people have not treated the Mobike scheme with respect.
“Issues with the theft and vandalism of bikes are not unique to Greater Manchester – unfortunately many other cities worldwide have experienced the same problems.”