Bye-bye Boris bikes? World's largest bike-sharing firm eyes London launch

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Mobike today launched in Manchester, its first foray outside of Asia

The world’s largest bike-sharing firm is in discussions with London councils to bring in a cheaper alternative, threatening Transport for London’s Boris bike monopoly.

Chinese firm Mobike, which today launched in Manchester, said there was “a lot of excitement” from a raft of cities in the UK and Europe at the prospect of bringing in the firm's bike-sharing technology.

“Our plans aren’t for just one city outside of Asia. We’ve definitely got bigger plans than that,” Mobike UK general manager Steve Pyer told City A.M..

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He added: “If you are in the outer [London] boroughs, for example, there aren't any Boris bikes there because of the cost. There is not much money in local government. So this type of scheme is a perfect extension of what’s already there.”

Pyer, who previously spent seven years working on the Boris bike programme, said he saw Mobike setting up shop in London as “complementary” to Transport for London’s scheme.

However, he said, Mobike’s offering is “a lot more cost effective, a lot easier”.

London's Boris, or Santander, bike scheme is funded by the taxpayer, users and through sponsorship; each footing around the third of the annual bill. Pyer explained much of the cost for the TfL scheme is taken up building the docking stations, a problem Mobike doesn't have. 

Instead, the bikes are unlocked via a mobile phone app and then locked manually – the lock is integrated into the cycle. Users leave the bikes in dedicated areas marked with simple zoning.

Because the scheme is cost effective… it opens it up to a much broader user group. Boris bikes are well known to be middle-class, middle-earner commuter. This is going to open it up to a lot more people. It is going to open it up to people who cannot afford £90 a year.

“It opens the demographic. We will be used by a lot more groups and people,” Pyer said.

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