Local councils and the mayor’s office have expressed concern to Business Insider over bike-sharing startup oBike, after it left hundreds of yellow bicycles on the streets of London without properly notifying boroughs that it was launching.
oBike is a startup from Singapore that announced earlier this month that it plans to deploy at least 5,500 bikes across London.
Users pay a deposit of £49 to access the bikes, and rides are then billed at 50p every 30 minutes.
The sell is that oBike’s bicycles are “dockless”, meaning you don’t need to return them to a dedicated parking station at the end of your ride. The bicycles work with a wheel locking mechanism, but unfortunately that means a rider could just leave them anywhere.
Business Insider tracked down some of the oBikes which had been left on Whitechapel Road. We were joined by two local council employees who were concerned about the oBikes after hearing complaints about them being left on the pavement.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council published a blog post on Friday in which it criticised the way oBike launched its service. It said that around 400 bikes “appeared” on Thursday morning “without any consultation at all.” It went on to say that “most [of the bicycles] had been left at right angles to the kerb, partially obstructing the footpath, and creating a potential hazard for pedestrians — particularly the disabled.”
Hackney Council also expressed its concern over the launch of oBike in London. Feryal Demirci, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, transport and parks, said in a statement that “we are disappointed that Obike have not tried to contact us to tell us the scheme is happening.” She went on to reference issues with bikes being left on pavements, and said that Hackney Council was unaware of how the bikes would be redistributed.
Demirci also said that there were communication issues with oBike. “At the moment there is no way of telling them” about misplaced bikes, she said. You can read the full Hackney Council statement below.
Many London residents tweeted complaints about the way oBike had launched and the fact that its bikes had ended up littering the streets.
And it appeared that Hammersmith & Fulham Council had served obstruction notices for blocking the pavement.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council claimed in its blog post that oBike had agreed to remove its bikes in the borough and would meet with the council. oBike didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
Another problem raised with oBike is that the bikes’ seats detach from the body of the bike. Jo Wood reviewed the bikes and said that a “dangerous” problem was that he could “easily … remove the entire seat post from the frame.”
A Twitter user also complained about the seats of the bikes coming away from the frame.
London transport regulator Transport for London declined to comment and referred Business Insider to the Mayor’s office.
London’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman said in a statement that “we need dockless bike operators to work with TfL and borough councils to ensure that these bikes work for all Londoners and don’t impact negatively on other cyclists, road users and pedestrians. These schemes have real potential to make cycling more accessible for many more Londoners, but it is vital that they are introduced in a way that suits our capital.”
Here’s the full statement from Hackney Council:
“We support the principle of bike sharing and welcome any scheme that could make it easier and cheaper for our residents to cycle. A dockless bike share scheme will ensure that there is greater coverage of bikes available for sharing in Hackney.
However, we are disappointed that Obike have not tried to contact us to tell us the scheme is happening as we have a few concerns that we need to speak to them about:
Firstly, bikes could be left in locations that cause obstructions and problems for pedestrians particularly the elderly, disabled and parents with prams. This could also undermine the public’s perception of the scheme.
Secondly, we need to know how the bikes will be redistributed as it is likely that there will be clusters of bikes left around locations like train stations and high streets.
Thirdly, we need a way of easily communicating with Obike. If a bike is left in the middle of a pavement or road we may have to remove it — at the moment there is no way of telling them.
We want to enter into a dialogue with companies to agree the way bike share schemes should work in the same way that we do for car clubs. Users need to be given information on locations where they can park their bike to prevent issues such as obstructing the footway and parking in areas of high pedestrian flows on narrow pavements. Operators need to show how they will ensure bikes are parked in the best locations and share the data with us so we can understand journey patterns and make sure the bikes are properly distributed from an early stage. They should employ staff on the ground and work alongside councils to make sure the schemes work well for users without causing problems for local residents.”