first city in the world to lose the bike sharing service. Honestly? I'm disappointed. I thought the novelty of vandalising them would wear off, and they would be a regular feature of the city centre.
Am I surprised? Not really. As I said here when they launched they could be great, but the service never became sufficiently reliable. I simply got out of the habit of relying on them. My job pretty much means I'm up and down and about the Oxford Road Corridor every day - popping into the city centre and occasionally Salford Quays. Sometimes they'd be stacked up in All Saints Park and the next day there'd be none.
Martin Bryant puts it well (as he usually does) here: "Manchester city centre packs a lot into a relatively small space. It’s easy to walk across in 20 minutes, and there are free buses operating three circular routes, each running every 10 minutes, if you don’t want to walk. For logistical reasons, Mobike quickly stopped people using the bikes for treks out into the suburbs, or even to the media and technology district in Salford Quays, which would probably have been a popular trip."
I took them 27 times, rode 38.8 km in total, burning up 2088 calories (yes, right) but I literally never rode one to Salford Quays. The ideal journey was from or to the University of Manchester and on to Piccadilly station or the city centre, but as I like walking, it was usually only when I was a little tight for time. But on more than one occasion the app crashed, and if I could happen on a stray bike, they wouldn't unlock and I was late anyway.
I also suspect there were other factors beyond shrinkage to the stock. My pal Dave EB scrutinises the operating business here: "When explaining to investors, it might be far easier to say that local vandalism is the cause than publicly saying that the business model was wrong and the marketplace didn’t want the product. It’s easier than saying than perhaps the product wasn’t adequately marketed. Mobike’s own Twitter account wasn’t very lively and didn’t garner many more followers than the author."
Also, the private equity fundraising model is to say to investors - 'we are going to replicate our success in city A, by also doing it in cities B, C and D. This is why we need your cash investment.' It's a good story and it stacks up. Once that capital has been raised in a funding round, you can pivot the business model on changing circumstances.
I like the ambitions for Manchester's suburban population to embrace cycling. I like the idea of cycling routes and maybe a docking scheme would work. It just wasn't going to be this one.