Last week, Barney wrote about the arrival of in Britain of rival bike hire start-ups, and what they would do to the public realm. But what are the bikes actually like to ride?
I’ve not yet had a chance to try Mobike or Ofo, but here’s what I found from my first trial of Obike in London.
The app is good (with just a few details not yet updated from Singapore). It’s very easy indeed to use once you’ve set it up by registering and paying the refundable £49 deposit. They’re cheap to ride, but you do have to make that initial commitment: will £49 put people off?
You can find bikes on the map: they’re spreading rapidly as I write. It guides you how to walk there, and you can reserve it on the way. Unlocking is quick and simple with a Q-code scan from the app (you do need an internet connection, GPS, and Bluetooth enabled). When you’re finished just click the wheel lock back and check it’s registered on your phone.
The bikes themselves are basic but smart, much lighter than Santander Bikes. The single gear is set at a surprisingly high ratio, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this puts non-cyclists off, particularly anywhere with the slightest hill.
The biggest problem for me was the seat height, which adjusts but not nearly enough for anyone tall, and I’ve heard the same concern about Mobike. I don’t know if the design from the Far East has been adjusted for the western market, but the current bikes will be really handy for a short potter, but painful for anything longer.
But that’s OK, because they’re meant for the last mile, and many people will use them for getting to and from stations, or getting about the local area.
Now it’s your turn: download the app and give it a try.
Barney Stringer is a director at regeneration consultancy Quod. This article was originally posted on his blog.