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Obike brings station-less hire bikes to London

Joseph Delves
12 Jul 2017

Obike debuts hire scheme in Tower Hamlets to rival TFL’s Boris bikes

A company called Obike has launched London's first station-less bike-rental platform, despositing 400 silver and orange bikes around the London borough of Tower Hamlets this morning.

Subscribers to the scheme will be able to locate and rent the bikes via an app, before returning them to any bicycle parking area when they're done.

Transport for London already runs a popular bicycle hire scheme – the so-called Boris Bikes – which is currently sponsored by Santander. However, their bikes have to be collected and returned to dedicated docking stations. In comparison Obikes can be left at a point of their rider’s choosing. 

Once signed up to the scheme, and having paid a refundable £49 deposit, users will get access to a map showing the location of the bikes. They can then reserve a specific bike for a period of 10 minutes, ensuring no one else takes it while they walk to its location. Once found, scanning a QR code on the bike will automatically unlock it.

Good behaviour rewarded

According to Obike, users will gain credits for 'good behaviour', such as completing a ride or reporting a broken bicycle. They’ll lose points for traffic violations or leaving the bike outside of a designated parking place. The user's credit score will then affect the cost of each rental. The standard cost of a 30-minute journey has been reported as 50p.

Obike first launched earlier this year with a fleet of 1,000 bikes in Singapore, before expanding to Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, The Netherlands, and Switzerland.

While it and similar schemes have proved successful around the world, how Tower Hamlets’ notoriously ingenious bike thieves take to the bikes will likely have a significant effect on its success in the UK capital.

While Obike's 400 bikes are dwarfed in number by the 11,500 TFL rental bikes at present, the move represents the first time a private operator has tried to launch a scheme on this scale in the capital. Elsewhere in the UK, Obike’s rivals Ofo and Mobike have already launched similar schemes in Cambridge and Manchester respectively.

In both locations some local residents and councilors objected to the bikes, claiming they caused an unnecessary obstruction. Similar schemes in China have also seen large numbers of bikes abandoned at popular locations.

For more information, head to Obike's website.

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