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Company says levels of bikes being stolen or damaged in the city are unsustainable

Dockless bike share firm Mobike has threatened to pull out of Manchester due to vandalism and theft.

Founded in Beijing in 2015, the company now operates in more than 200 cities worldwide, with Manchester last year becoming its first market outside China.

Bikes belonging to such schemes being targeted by thieves or vandals is nothing new – earlier this week we reported how police in Seattle are trying to track down a man filmed cutting brake cables.

But Mobike, which in the UK also operates in Newcastle, Oxford and parts of London, says it has not encountered anywhere else the levels of theft and vandalism it has seen in Manchester.

According to the Manchester Evening News, last month alone 10 per cent of the bicycles in Mobike’s fleet in the city were damaged or stolen.

Bikes have been thrown into canals and even set on fire, while others have had their locks broken with people taking them exclusively for their own use and keeping them at their homes when not being ridden.

The company acknowledges that most users of the scheme are responsible  and says that its business model does allow for some losses.

But it adds that current levels of theft and vandalism in the city are unsustainable and it could shut down its operations in the coming weeks.

Mobike’s UK general manager, Jan Van der Ven, said: “As a private business, we are only viable if our revenues cover our costs, and that is not possible with the current levels of bike loss in Manchester.

“For that reason, we have sat down with representatives from Manchester council, Greater Manchester Police and TfGM, and have agreed a range of measures to help protect our bikes.”

Greater Manchester Cycling & Walking Commissioner Chris Boardman said the prospect of the city losing the scheme was “a real shame.”

He also pointed out that availability of bike sharing was an important aspect of his recently launched Beelines project to encourage more people to get around the city on foot or on bike.

Theft of vandalism of Mobike bicycles can be reported via its app or via email to support.uk [at] mobike.com.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.