Just like you I’ve started noticing random orange and silver bikes knocking around the city centre (and further afield) and have wondered what exactly is going on. So I’ve donned my long coat, put on one of them trilby hats, bought a magnifying glass and done some investigating – just for you.
So – these bikes are a new initiative being trialled in Manchester – Mobike – a Chinese based company offering smart bike hire which only requires a mobile phone, a bank account and the ability to keep your balance while 30 double decker buses speed past you around Piccadilly Gardens.
Of course there are bike sharing schemes all over the place. London got the Boris bikes and I myself have given the Bicing bikes a ride in Barcelona to escape the tourists – but how is this one different and why are the bikes just littered about the city willy-nilly?
Well, the system works using your smartphone – sign up, download the app, get on their WAP site – whatever it is, and you should be ready to go. So I’ve signed up and done it – just to see how easy it is.
a) Download the App
Get on your phone and head to the App Store or Google Play and download the Mobike app. Easy enough right. Open it and you should be able to pop in your phone number and get a PIN number sent to you for authentication. Mine was 60087 but yours will probably be different so don’t use that.
b) Deposit some money
So now the App will ask you to pay a deposit onto your Mobike account – strangely the deposit amount is £29 – which is a bit arbitrary – I believe this is a discount for July – when the month ends the deposit is £49.
c) Access the Map
Once you’ve popped in a deposit you will now have access to the full app – which is basically Google Maps showing you where all of the Mobike bikes are in the city. You can flick through and find your nearest one.
When you click on the little bike icon there is an option to ‘Reserve’ the bike for 15 minutes – to stop anyone else getting it before you have time to walk there. I tried this feature but it didn’t work – I don’t know if this is the same with everyone or maybe just my phone.
e) Find the Bike
Once you’ve picked a bike, you then need to bloody find the thing. Mine was right outside someone’s office just off Dale Street – took a while for me to locate it.
f) Add some credit
It might be a good point now to put some actual credit onto your account. The bikes cost 50p for 30 minutes usage and you can credit your account with £5 increments.
g) Unlock Your Bike
Look closely at a Mobike and you will see one of them QR codes from 3 years ago at the back and on the handlebars – this is what you use to unlock it. On the App – press ‘Unlock’ at the bottom, scan the code and the bike should unlock with a hearty-sounding ‘Click’ and a robotic ‘beep’.
h) Get on!
You are now free to ride the bike, do wheelies, give people backies etc. The bikes themselves are pretty sturdy – and apparently they are ‘maintenance free’, meaning that they should work for 4 years without anyone stepping in and fixing the brakes or sorting out a puncture.
Once finished Mobike insist that you place your bike in one of a few designated ‘areas’ so that people know where to pick them up from – but people just seem to be leaving them anywhere. The areas include Media City, Man Met, MOSI and the Great Northern Warehouse but we managed to find a load in Piccadilly Gardens and littered around the NQ.
So if you can’t afford a bike, or you’ve had yours robbed, or you can’t be bothered with all of the maintenance that is required then Mobike looks like a pretty decent alternative. It’s true that Manchester isn’t really the best city for cycling – but hopefully if more people get involved in this, things may change.