In November, a fleet of over 400 brightly coloured dockless bikes from two rival Chinese companies – Mobike and Ofo – descended upon the streets of Islington. The borough is the first to allow two dockless bike firms to compete for users.
The bikes, unlike the so-called Boris bikes, can be used north of Angel. They were welcomed by campaigners and Councillor Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s executive member for environment and transport. She expressed hope that the partnership with Islington Council would encourage more residents to use the dockless bikes a healthier, eco-friendly mode of transport.
However, members of the local community are complaining that the bikes create a hazard for pedestrians. Labour Councillor Martin Klute, chairman of the Town Hall’s health and care scrutiny committee, said: “I have views for and against dockless bikes. But I think they will become more of a problem if they proliferate”. The stories about thousands of dockless bikes in China being crushed because they are littering the streets shows what can happen. Personally, I think they are very bright and very ugly, and spoil the environment.”
Dockless bikes good idea (in theory)
Janet Sykes, who works near Angel, said: “It’s great for the people who use them but not for pedestrians. They’re often parked in the middle of the street, and some don’t stand up properly and block the path. I’ve seen kids mucking around with them and launching them at each other. I’ve also heard about them being vandalised. It’s a real shame because I think in theory they’re a good idea.”
However, student Joseph Friend said: “I’m a fan. I know people who use them all the time, especially when they only want to cycle somewhere one-way. You can park them wherever you want and they’re good for the environment.”
Cllr Webbe told Islington Now that there was a “strict memorandum of understanding between Islington Council and the two cycle companies. This ensures that bikes don’t get in the way of pedestrians”.
“We haven’t heard any complaints at all. We believe everyone should have access to cycling, and this scheme extends to the north of the borough where Santander bikes do not”.
Ofo, one of the competing bike-share firms known for their distinctive bright yellow cycles, is defending their brand.
Matthew Sparkes, a spokesperson for Ofo, said: “We are thrilled with the uptake of Ofo users in Islington and the success in the borough. Vandalism remains minimal – there has inevitably been a small amount of misuse of our bikes but the vast majority of our fleet in Islington is being used in a responsible manner.”