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EU cycling federation warns of challenges posed by bike-sharing

By Angus McNeice in London | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-07-28 17:09

The European Union's cycling body has warned that the arrival of Chinese bicycle-hire companies could lead to the swamping of public areas with discarded bikes.

The European Cycling Federation is calling on city authorities to regulate the companies and ensure they have enough staff to look after their bikes properly. The schemes have been immensely popular in China but some public areas have been inundated with hundreds of the bikes.

Ubiquitous in much of Asia, stationless smart bikes are now appearing on city streets from London to San Francisco.

In the UK, Chinese firms Ofo, YoBike, and Mobike have introduced bikes in Cambridge, Bristol, and Manchester respectively, while Singaporean company oBike was the first to introduce smart bikes in London.

The European Cycling Federation, which is funded by the European Commission, and the International Association of Public Transport have produced both a "Common Position Paper on Unlicensed Dockless Bike Share" and a "Policy Framework for Smart Public-use Bike Sharing" to help administer the schemes.

Generally, firms have worked with local authorities before launching in UK cities, though tensions have boiled over in some cases.

Nextbike, a bike-sharing scheme that uses docking stations in Bath, has accused YoBike of leaking its service into the city from nearby Bristol without telling the council.

In mid-July, around 400 oBike bicycles appeared on the streets of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. The council complained it had not been consulted by oBike and the bikes had created "a potential hazard for pedestrians".

Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, said: "We're very much in favor of cycling. But we expect companies to properly consult with us first. This launch could have been much better thought out."

After the council raised its concerns, oBike agreed to remove the bicycles from the borough, although the bikes have since returned.

Will Norman, the Greater London Authority's walking and cycling commissioner, said: "We need the dockless bike hire companies to work with us and with the boroughs. We have got the powers to remove (the bikes) if they are causing any dangers or obstructions."

Paul Stratta, director of the ECF's Platform for European Bicycle Sharing and Systems, said the need for policy recommendations became clear following Chinese bike-sharing company Bluegogo's ill-fated launch in San Francisco. Bluegogo rolled out thousands of bikes in the Californian city in March, before pulling them from the streets after a drawn-out battle with city leaders.

Stratta said: "We are very pro dockless technology, but if tourist spots are littered with bikes then cities would start to limit cycling. The city has to take the lead on what type of bike share they want."

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