Then There Were Eight

Freebike – London’s newest electric bikeshare system.

Two bicycle sharing systems have launched in London in the last fortnight, joining four systems already on the streets of central London and two more on the edge of the capital:

Freebike has launched an electric-assist system based in the City, Islington, Hackney, Camden, Kensington, Chelsea and parts of Lambeth and Wandsworth along the river. Essentially, central London but excluding Westminster and Bankside. There are around 200 bikes in the initial launch, painted flourescent yellow and black.

The system uses virtual docks. You can pause your journey (at a reduced rate) in the operating area, and also in Westminster and Bankside. You can also finish a journey away from a dock, for an additional fee. Hackney doesn’t yet have virtual docks. Freebike’s unique proposition is that you can do short non-electric journeys for it for free, once you have an account and have deposited £1 in it. The bikes are electric-assist, use of this is optional and if you ride under your own pedal power, it is cheaper!

Freebike is an electric version of the Homeport platform, which already runs smaller systems in a number of UK cities including Oxford, Nottingham and Lincoln, as well as in a number of Polish and other European cities.

Beryl Bikes – at the launch in central Enfield. A marked dock is on the left.

The second launch is Beryl Bikes who are now operating in Enfield in north London. They have plans also to launch in the City of London – along with Freebike, they are the two operators that the City of London have approved for using virtual docks within the Square Mile. The bikes are painted turquoise. Their initial fleet is 350 bikes, covering the full borough of Enfield but focused on the west and central parts.

The system is not electric-assist but the bikes do come with solar panels for charging the lights and also the bicycle symbol laser-lights which were invented by Beryl and appear on the larger Santander Cycles system in central London.

One of the marked docking stations in Enfield.

You can only start or finish a journey in one of 50 virtual docks. Notably, these have been marked out on the ground, as rectangles which often (but not always) surround existing bicycle parking hoops. The bays are also coloured turquoise, and can be used for any bicycles, including future virtual dock and dockless systems in the future, although Beryl do have exclusivity with Enfield at the moment. Beryl should be extending into the City of London soon – they are waiting for the virtual docks to be marked on the ground there first. Freebike will also be using these docks.

The careful and considered launch of these two new systems is a contrast to the existing “pure” dockless systems of Lime, Mobike and JUMP which don’t currently designate virtual docks at all (Mobike did briefly, a while back). It will be interesting to see whether “docks” are the future of “dockless” – whether they can provide the balance between cost-effectiveness of not needing the Santander Cycles docks with their associated planning, pavement reconstruction and power requirements, and order of ensuring that the bikes should be available only from well-marked and sufficiently spacious locations.

Along with the six systems mentioned above, ITS operate a very small two-docking-station system using Smoove bikes (a French company who also supply the Velib in Paris) between the two campuses of Kingston University, using pedal-assist to get people up/down Kingston Hill. Only students and staff can join this system. There is also a small nextbike-based system servicing mainly Brunel University and Uxbridge town centre. Unlike Kingston’s, anyone can use this one. It too is dock-based, but has no electric assist. Nextbike supply numerous systems around Europe and Asia, including the forthcoming huge Birmingham system. Confusingly, the Brunel system is also called Santander Cycles, despite being incompatible with the Santander Cycles in central London.

A quick summary of the eight London bikeshare systems currently operating:

NameSantander
Cycles
MobikeLimeJUMPFreebikeBerylKU BikesSantander
Cycles
Launched20102017201820192019201920172019
# Bikes9000160010003502003502040
ColoursRed
+ Navy
OrangeGreen
+ Yellow
Bright
Red
Bright
Yellow
Turqu
-oise
Yellow
+ Black
Red
+ White
PlatformPBSCMobikeLimeSoBiHomeportBerylSmoovenextbike
OperatorSercoMobikeLimeUberFreebikeBerylITSnextbike
Dock
Type
PhysicalNoneNoneNoneVirtual**TapedPhysicalPhysical
Extendable
Bike
Type
PedalPedalElectric
Assist
Electric
Assist
Optional
Electric
Assist
PedalElectric
Assist
Pedal
London
Area
InnerInner,
West
Inner,
NW, SE
InnerInnerNorth
***
KingstonUxbridge
Ride Cost
1×10 min

“Dabbler”
£2£1£2.50£1.60£0 (ped.)
£1 (elect.)
£1.50£1£1
Ride Cost
2×15 min

“Errand”
£2£2£6.50£4.40£1 (ped.)
£4 (elect.)
£3.50£1£2
Ride Cost
1×60 min

“Tourist”
£4*£3£10£7.60£2.50* (p.)
£6 (elect.)
£4£1£2

* Stopping/restarting the journey at intermediate docking stations will reduce this cost.
** Will also used taped docks in at least the City of London, once they are constructed.
*** Additionally launching shortly in the City of London.

Of note, Freebike is the cheapest public system (i.e. discounting the private KU Bikes) for two theoretical fifteen minute journeys by a user without a multiday membership – both in electric assist and full manual pedal mode. Lime is noticeably more expensive than all the others.

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