An intriguing article from the Times (£), suggesting that eScooters, which are illegal to ride on public land in the UK, but are nonetheless quite widely used in the London commute and elsewhere, could be legalised and regulated, with them being coming under the same regulations as pedelecs – specifically, they can be used in places that bicycles can, as long as their maximum speed is 25km/h (15.5mph). A government consultation on these changes may be on the way soon, followed by urban trials and then possible legislation.
A small scale trial has been running in London’s Olympic Park, by Bird, using technically private land there that is part of the post-Olympic space.
This has the potential to open up the UK to the kind of fierce eScootershare competition seen in many Western cities outside the UK. However, by the time eScootershare gets here, the mode may have cooled off elsewhere -the industry is now moving into a period of consolidation, as investor money burns through and profits are elusive – particularly due to the short “shelf life” of the devices, on the mean streets of Paris, Washington DC and elsewhere.
Scooters, of course, aren’t “active transport” – the exercise benefits for the user are less – particularly as they can be used literately door to door – but they are certainly healthier for other cyclists and pedestrians, than the equivalent, car, taxi or bus usage.
The Camden High Line was suggested by blogger Oliver O’Brien in 2015 and is being actively pursued by the Camden Town Unlimited BID. The aim is to create a linear, green and open walkway between King’s Cross and Camden Town. The route would utilise a disused railway line that runs alongside the existing Overground route. O’Brien identified a route whose eastern end terminated at Camley Street, using the existing stairs towards the northern end of Camley Street on the north side of the railway.
A revitalised Camley Street, combined with the High Line, would make for a scenic walking route between Camden Town and King’s Cross Central, or, combined with the canal link, an interesting triangular walk.
I was invited by organiser Landor LINKS to speak at the Walking and Cycling Conference which took place in Manchester last month. The conference included a good focus on bikeshare, and it was a good time for the UK-focused bikeshare industry to pause and take stock of a busy 2019. Three UK-focused bikeshare operators – Freebike, Beryl and Nextbike UK – were present, and it was good to chat with the respective teams and find out how the year had gone and their thoughts for the following year.
MicroMAAS and the UK
I presented on “MicroMAAS” data – first defining MicroMAAS as mobility share services that you can pick up (i.e. bikeshare and escootershare) and outlining the different types of bikeshare popularly available:
I then talked about the “why” of open/standardised data in the sector:
and the “where” – Europe is well behind the US here:
I mentioned CDRC’s excellent and huge collection of largely dock-based bikeshare dock data, available through the CDRC Data Service:
The last part of my talk touched on managing such systems, including key players in analytics platforms:
I also outlined and bemoaned and the (little) progress towards fourth generation bikeshare systems where payment is fully integrated into how other transport modes are paid for, rather than being app-siloed. Right now we are in a commercial battle, with providers looking to integrate vertically rather than horizontally – largely due to the weak management of the sector by local authorities here in the UK – who seem happy to take money and less happy to regulate the sector properly and effectively so that MicroMAAS will actually be a net benefit to the wider UK streetscene:
Of the other talks, I was particularly interested in Beryl’s – especially they included some data on their first half-year of operations. UK bikeshare usage data is still rather sparse so it was good to see these numbers in a public presentation. The London operation is very small – they quickly moved out of Enfield after the system was heavily abused and little used there – and the City of London “square mile” only has limited need for journeys within it:
London’s on-street available fleet is typically around 144 (and around 100 currently) rather than the 400 mentioned here. With approx 5 months between launch in July and the early December presentation, this suggests around 30 rides a day or just 0.2 rides/bike/day (as a rule of thumb, for a non-electric system, over 1 is just about OK, over 2 is good and over 3 is really good – for electric you need 2+ due to the extra costs of the bikes and retrieving them to charge). As you can’t really do a point-to-point journey in the City that is longer than a mile and a bit, this would explain the average journey being just over a mile – half that of Bournemouth.
This may improve with their extension to Hackney that is happening now – so far they have moved into Shoreditch and Hoxton in the south of the borough, but in time if they move into parts unserved by Santander Cycles then they become the cheap, manual alternative to Uber’s JUMP here.
However their numbers for Bournemouth and Hereford – the latter helped by a generous public subsidy – are much more positive. Bournemouth launched in mid-June and averages around 300 bikes (although 140 bikes currently) – so 1 t/b/d, and Hereford launched at the end of July, averaging around 160, or 1.3 t/b/d. Bournemouth is suffering from theft though.
I’m also hearing good numbers coming out of Uber’s JUMP system in London – so it is possible for commercially-led bikeshare systems to work here in the UK, it just takes a lot of experimentation, effort and investment.
See also Bikesharp, which is my blog exclusively dedicated to the minutiae of the UK bikeshare market.