Dockless bike-sharing is springing up across the UK, with schemes already launched in Manchester, Cambridge and London.
However there are currently no national licensing rules in place that govern dockless bikes.
As a result of this – and after several companies announced they are considering launching in Oxford – a new code of conduct has been drawn up by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council for dockless bike-sharing operators.
Unlike London’s familiar ‘Boris’ bikes, which are hired from and returned to docking stations located around the city, dockless systems use mobile phone apps to enable people to rent a bicycle. Users locate the nearest bike via the app, and can park it wherever suits them best.
However, the schemes are not without problems, including complaints that the bikes are not always parked appropriately.
In response to issues seen in other cities, the City and County Councils, in conjunction with other stakeholders, have produced a code of conduct that the new operators must abide by.
It commits dockless bike companies to ensure:
- Bikes are of high quality and well maintained;
- There is a strong mechanism for reporting bike faults;
- Bikes are not left in dangerous locations or where they cause an obstruction;
- Bikes are redistributed around the city;
- All bikes have lights; and
- All employees are paid at least the Oxford Living Wage
When they launch, the companies are asked to start with a pilot phase with a small number of bikes (50-100 each), and then expand only if the trial is successful and it is appropriate to do so.
Those signing up to the code will receive the endorsement of the City and County Councils, while those companies that do not sign up to the code and block the city’s pavements could find their bikes impounded, the councils warned.
Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council’s Cycling Champion, commented: “Oxford is a cycling city and our ambition is to significantly increase the number of people commuting to work by bike, which will help reduce air pollution and congestion – and keep people fit and active.Dockless bike schemes could help us achieve this aspiration, but we need to make sure we get the right approach – one that encourages cycling but doesn’t lead to bicycles clogging up the pavements of our small medieval city.So far, all the companies who have approached us have agreed to sign up to the code of conduct and we hope this will avoid problems.”