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Why Are So Many Dockless Bike Sharing Schemes Suddenly Popping Up in London?

Picture of Claire Lancaster
Tech & Entrepreneurship Editor
Updated: 8 September 2017
If you live in London, you may have noticed a swarm of ‘dockless’ rental cycles popping up across the city, seemingly overnight.

The free range rental bikes don’t need to be checked in to physical docking stations, but are instead hired via an app and unlocked with a Bluetooth connection. A locking rear brake means they can be left anywhere.

The cycles started to arrive in London back in July, when Singaporean start-up oBike released 400 dockless bikes. Shortly after, Chinese start-up Mobike released 750 dockless bikes in Ealing.

Then, in the first week of September another Chinese company, Ofo, launched 200 yellow cycles in Hackney. Later that week, Irish company Urbo released 250 green dockless bikes in Waltham Forest.

The Mayor’s office says the bikes’ simultaneous arrival was just a coincidence, with the competitor brands looking to launch their schemes before the end of the summer.

A dockless Ofo cycle in east London
A dockless Ofo cycle in east London | © Ofo

While there has been some initial anger over cycles being stranded in inconvenient locations, obstructing pavements and even being chucked into the Thames, the government’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, has said ‘dockless bikes have real potential to make cycling easier and more accessible’.

Indeed, dockless schemes have quickly spread across China. Mobike reportedly introduced a million cycles to 18 cities in its first year, and Ofo claims to have 10 million users in 33 urban centres. Whether Londoners embrace or reject the dockless cycles, however, remains to be seen.

Interested in biking? Find out how these smog-sucking cycles may help clean China’s polluted air.