But some are sceptical after the Mobikes withdrawal

Beryl Bikes has been selected by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to design, deliver and operate Greater Manchester’s cycle hire scheme.

The scheme is part of wider plans from Andy Burnham and Chris Boardman to develop the "Bee Network" - Greater Manchester's integrated public transport system.

There is huge appetite for this scheme, and we can’t wait to see people on our bikes and e-bikes later this year

Around 1,500  of the bikes and e-bikes will be available for the public to use. Unlike the ill-fated Mobike scheme, the Beryl bikes will use docking stations to improve security, and in time be part of a single integrated payment system connected with other types of public transport.

Transport fans will note the yellow frame with bee design which will surely be echoed across the Bee Network when the new bus livery is decided as plans to franchise the bus network are solidified.

Andy Burnham said: “We’re  fully integrating our public transport system – The Bee Network – and building the UK’s largest cycling and walking network, so I am very pleased to announce that Beryl has been named as our delivery partner for cycle hire, with the first bikes going on the ground later this year.

“Our cycle hire will be one of the largest docked systems outside London and I cannot wait to use the new bikes myself as a way to get from A to B. We’re making huge strides towards our plans to build back greener and be carbon neutral by 2038.”

Philip Ellis, CEO of Beryl, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have been selected to deliver Greater Manchester’s new cycle hire scheme, bringing our experience and innovation to one of the great city regions in Europe, As we begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, enabling people to travel safely, affordably, and conveniently by bike will be key to rejuvenating our high streets and improving our environment – particularly reducing air pollution.

“Andy Burnham, Chris Boardman and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) have fantastic ambition when it comes to active travel, and we’re excited to be playing our role and bringing our experience in delivering world-class cycle hire. There is huge appetite for this scheme, and we can’t wait to see people on our bikes and e-bikes later this year.”

Docking v dockless bikes

Many commenters responded by pointing to the Mobike fiasco, in which the Chinese dockless bike firm withdrew from Manchester (the first time it ever had to leave a city) due to constant vandalism. Apparently 10% of the 2,000 Manchester Mobikes vanish or were vandalised every month. 

Beryl's docking system is designed to counteract this, as the user has to keep paying for the bike until it is re-docked, theoretically discouraging people from chucking it in a canal or hanging them from a tree, or other creative methods of disposal. This assumes, of course, that people who want to chuck bikes in canals also set up accounts in their own names with their own cards.

171011 Mobike Manchester Img 7722
The ill-fated Mobike scheme

Another point made by several active travel campaigners is that some of Manchester's cycle lanes are still not up to scratch and that providing bikes without providing safe bike lanes is rather putting the cart before the horse. 

The scheme will start in November with a trial area across defined areas of Salford, Manchester and Trafford before being rolled out across the whole of Greater Manchester.  These areas were  chosen because of their large numbers of residents and visitors, nearby attractions and the high use of bikes by groups such as students. 

The first phase will make cycle hire a viable travel option for more than 100,000 households who will live within a five-minute walk of a docking station. Plans for phase two should see the scheme expand further out of the regional centre. 

Demand for cycling is on the rise in Greater Manchester, with trips up 20% on the long-term average, as shown in TfGM’s Travel Diary surveys. Local research has also found that only 16% of people living in flats have access to a bike, making this a huge barrier for people living in high-density housing in the region.

Now all that remains - apart from collectively resisting the urge to give the smart new bikes a dunking - is to think of a cute new nickname for cycles.

Read next: Opinion: 'The ballot box is not the only democratic lever we have'

Read again: Opinion: 'Manchester's inaccessible travel should be a public outrage'

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