Smart bikes launch in Manchester and Salford

New scheme uses GPS technology and mobile app and provides scope for data analytics on journey patterns

Greater Manchester’s transport authority has signalled its support for a smart bike scheme around the city that uses GPS navigation technology and a mobile app.

Woman on a MobikeThe scheme’s operator, Chinese company Mobike, has agreed on a voluntary code of conduct with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), initially providing 1,000 bikes with plans to supply more if the demand increases.

It is the company’s first initiative in Europe following almost 100 in Chinese cities and Singapore since its first launch in April of last year.

Each of the bikes is equipped with a GPS-embedded smart lock that reacts to the app, which can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple’s App Store, through a scan of the QR code. This makes it possible for the user to lock and unlock the bike before and after a journey.

A spokesperson for Mobike told UKAuthority that cyclists will be directed to authorised parking areas around the city, but that the app effectively locks the bike’s wheels and that their weight makes it difficult for anyone to carry off.

Users pay for the service by registering with a credit card, debit card or Paypal account, creating a wallet that they can top up as needed. The fares are priced according to how long they use a bike.

It is also possible for them to make reservations.

Analytics potential

The company is also collecting data on the bikes’ movements through its internet of things network, which the spokesperson said could be available to the city authorities for analysis.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “As mayor I want to see many more people swapping their cars for bikes in Greater Manchester and I will take a positive approach to promoting cycling across our city-region. This scheme could help make cycling more accessible to people, but it is an untested idea in the UK and we will need to keep this under review.

“We’re conscious that our city centre is a complex and busy area already, so TfGM has been working hard to establish a voluntary code of working with Mobike to make sure the service operates in a way that doesn’t inconvenience other road users, pedestrians or city centre traders.”

“If successful, it could play an important part of our long term plans for cycling in the region and for making travel easier and more sustainable.”

Mobike said it now operates more than 5 million smart bikes and supports over 20 million rides per day.

The company’s UK general manager, Steve Pyer, said it is talking with a number of other cities around Europe about possible implementations.

Image from Mobike