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Vandalism hits Greater Manchester’s cycle hire scheme again

Transport for Greater Manchester issues plea to respect bikes so others can enjoy them

Users of Greater Manchester’s Bee Network Cycle Hire Scheme are encountering problems in finding bikes available to ride with the initiative targeted by vandals, five years after dockless bike hire operator Mobike pulled out of the city-region, citing similar anti-social behaviour.

> One Mobike incident a day was reported to Manchester police during bike-share firm's time in the city

Earlier today, local news website Confidentials.com reported that the Bee Network Cycle Hire Scheme, owned and managed by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) using docking stations and bikes from bike-share firm Beryl, “have been disappearing from the streets of Manchester, Trafford and Salford in alarming numbers.”

The website said that people attempting to use the scheme, launched in November 2021, were encountering severe difficulties in finding bikes to hire, and blamed the shortages on vandalism and other anti-social behaviour.

In reply to a request to Beryl to clarify the situation, TfGM, to whom our enquiry was forwarded, provided the same response to road.cc that it had already provided to Confidentials.com, with Active Travel Programme Director, Richard Nickson, confirming that vandalism – as well as increased uptake recently – lay behind the bike shortages and that it was trying to address the problem.

“The Greater Manchester Cycle Hire Scheme has been hugely popular so far, with almost 1million kilometres ridden since its launch, and the majority of people are using the bikes as they should,” he said.

“Unfortunately, a recent spate of vandalism has meant that fewer bikes are available than normal and we would like to apologise to anyone that has recently been unable to access one.

“TfGM owns and manages the scheme, which is operated by Beryl, and we are working together to restore the availability of bikes as soon as possible.

“The increase in vandalism has resulted in a backlog of bikes in need of repair in the Trafford depot, as well as those in need of routine maintenance. Beryl has increased depot resources to speed up bike repairs and get them back out on the network for people to use.

“In addition, we have been experiencing increasingly high demand for our bikes, with usage around three times higher than expected, and following the opening of 30 new stations in the last month in Trafford and Manchester city centre we are also seeing a change in how they are being used.”

In a plea that many might view as being likely to be unheeded, he said: “We would appeal to the small minority of people are misusing the bikes to please respect them and help us ensure our bikes remain available for other people to use.

“TfGM is working closely with Greater Manchester Police through the TravelSafe Partnership to minimise incidents of vandalism, theft and anti-social behaviour,” he added.

Active travel campaign group Walk Ride GM, meanwhile, has called for an “urgent review” into the scheme, saying on Twitter that TfGM “cannot continue sustainability without a workable cycle hire scheme.”

In 2017, the city-region became the first outside Asia, and the 100th city worldwide, to welcome the Mobike, one of a number of dockless cycle hire firms that expanded quickly around the globe.

However, the company, which subsequently launched similar schemes in London, Oxford, Cambridge and Newcastle, ceased operations in Manchester the following year citing theft and vandalism, and subsequently withdrew from the other UK cities in which it operated.

When unveiled in 2019 under the name Beelines by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and the city-region’s then cycling and walking commissioner, Chris Boardman, the project was focused on developing routes for cyclists and pedestrians.

Originally, they were called Beelines, but the name was changed to the Bee Network after London-based start-up Relish highlighted that it the name could cause confusion with its range of Beeline navigational compasses and route-finding app for bicycles and motorbikes.

> Manchester's Beelines renamed the Bee Network after copyright issue with London firm

More recently, the Bee Network’s distinctive yellow and black branding, as well as its name, have been rolled out more widely to Greater Manchester’s transport, including buses, the first of which were delivered earlier this month, and the cycle hire scheme.

Regarding the issues currently being encountered by the Bee Network Cycle Hire Scheme, TfGM added: “For information Members of the public can report issues or misuse with the scheme quickly and easily through the Beryl app or by email.

“Anyone who does not return or lock a bike will receive a penalty charge. Customers are asked to leave them in a designated area after use to avoid unnecessary costs.

“Incidents or un-returned bikes can be reported to Beryl in App chat or by contacting support [at] beryl.cc and users are encouraged to use what3words when providing location information.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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3 comments

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RoubaixCube | 11 months ago
1 like

I think they'll find that most of the bikes are sitting at the bottom of the rivers and canals.... Like most of the rental bikes in london. If they havent been parked and left somewhere, where its completely blocking the pavement for pedestrians. It will be at the bottom of the rivers/canals.

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chrisonabike replied to RoubaixCube | 11 months ago
0 likes

Ones my way in Edinburgh got properly trashed (presumably hard-to- repair plastic bits around the electrics smashed) and were dumped in bushes etc. Too far to go to a river or canal clearly.

I think some kids are always going to steal stuff and break it. Reducing that? Not sure how London does it? In NL the biggest hire system is OVFiets (national scheme with bikes primarily based at stations and public transport hubs). There I think bikes always start and finish from a manned centre or a whole-bike locker. So some level of supervision at least while not actively in use.

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stonojnr | 11 months ago
3 likes

Was in Manchester last week and noticed the racks were mostly empty all the time, had just assumed it meant they were popular, but I don't recall seeing more than a couple being ridden about. E bikes for deliveroo, plenty with a no pedalling required feature, and e scooters were the predominant form of non car based transport.

For all the good PR Manchester gets for promoting cycling, I was surprised at how few cyclists there were and disappointed at how bad it still seemed in terms of routes & traffic.

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