Mobikes – out of control with permission

After receiving complaints from residents, and reading about others’ irritations on social media (including from people who regularly cycle), I asked whether we could reassess the contract with Mobikes to manage the sudden proliferation of bikes – including many left inconsiderately, blocking bike racks so others can’t park their own bikes or left across pavements so pedestrians can’t easily get by.  The facts, from Hounslow’s traffic/transport department, are interesting:

“The reality is there is no contract, only a memorandum of understanding.  Unless these bikes are physically obstructing the whole of the footway (when they could be removed by the highway authority) we have very little in the way of sanctions that we can apply against these operators.  Good will and moral suasion are in effect our only options.

“Legislation is trying to catch up but at the moment the least worst way of trying to manage their operations is through working collaboratively.

Where the cycles are being parked on private land or parked two abreast this is not standard practice and may have been down to an error by their distribution team. Although the situation on the street may have changed, I’ve taken the opportunity of reporting this location directly to Mobike to ask that they check for any poorly parked/abandoned cycles in the vicinity.  Mobikes should be positioned at agreed ‘hub’ locations however, now with the number of cycles increasing, it’s understood that some of the original and agreed hub locations may have been moved to respond to demand.  We are reviewing where the new locations are and have requested an updated map which will be received shortly.  We are grateful for this being brought to our attention.

“In terms of reviewing the contract, Mobike operate with our permission but not under a licensing scheme like that we use to manage street trading. This is something we are working on with Transport for London and London Councils, to rectify this with the creation of a new bye-law which would allow for a license scheme, although this is likely to be a year away at the earliest.

“Feedback such as this continues to be important to us and we keep a log of all such reports/complaints. Mobike is operating under a 12 month trial which is due to come to an end in February 2019 following which we will be able to review the situation further.  The trial is seen as an opportunity for increased cycling within the borough, helping to reduce reliance on motorized transport and the associated congestion/pollution this brings.  Although, as you’ve highlighted, there will be occasions when some of the cycles get left in difficult positions, and we appreciate the concerns being highlighted and the company themselves encourage people to report such incidences during the trial.  As you would expect the trial is being monitored by Mobike via usage information and feedback to ensure that the bikes don’t lead to obstruction of the footway, or take up cycle parking spaces used by existing cyclists, but where bikes are found to be parked badly and causing an obstruction, their operations team seek to move such bikes within a strict timescale.

“In terms of Mobike’s contact details – aside from their mobile App, they have a customer support team who I’ve found to be quick to respond by email: support.uk@mobike.com  or by phone: 0330 131 9789.”