Between January and June 2018 one hundred new bikes were scattered across Ipswich town centre as part of a dock-less bike sharing scheme. The basic idea was that Urbo, an Irish company, following limited negotiation with the local authority left these bikes, distributed across Ipswich for anyone to use.
Anyone with a smart phone and the wherewithal to log on to an ‘app’ could become a user. This enabled the individual’s phone to locate the nearest bike, and when found to unlock it. GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) tracked the bike until the user had completed their journey and locked the cycle to a convenient lamp-post. Thus the bike became available for the next user.
There was a charge of a few pence to use the bike for a short journey (which was the idea behind the provision: many users, many short journeys, a viable alternative to the polluting internal combustion engine).
The company initially left the bikes in the town centre but you will not be surprised to learn that users rode them home and left them in the suburbs where there were considerably fewer users; thus they didn’t get returned into the centre.
We don’t know, and can only speculate, why the company removed the cycles from Ipswich (or at least those they could find) leaving the following message on Social Media:
From 30/6/2018 Urbo will be taking a short break from providing our dock-less bike service in Ipswich, to renew our fleet and make some upgrades to our service. New fleet available from September 2018.
Needless to say, September came and went and to date the cycles haven’t been returned into Ipswich. Similar schemes by different companies have been withdrawn from Norwich, Newcastle and Nottingham where, similarly there is no sign of a return of the bikes.
At least those schemes with docking stations, such as the ‘Boris Bikes’ in London gave users sufficient confidence to leave home and head for a bike rack with perhaps 20 cycles first thing in the morning.
Dock-less schemes meant that the bikes could be anywhere including inside the lobby of private flats; the GPS locator would indicate the presence of a cycle but it was effectively reserved for the person that left it in the lobby.
In town the lack of docking stations meant that the bikes were left (locked) wherever, inconveniencing shoppers and passers-by. And as with all equipment that is hired rather than owned there was a flippant attitude to the care of the bike; someone else will repair it!