Cardiff’s nextbike scheme has been championed in Parliament as a success story of how cycling projects should work, with the city’s ‘nextbike on prescription’ given special mention.
A bill presented by Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner asked the Government to consider giving powers to local authorities for the regulation dockless bike share schemes, and he highlighted nextbike’s scheme in the Welsh capital as an example to be followed across the country.
nextbike launched the groundbreaking pilot in May to allow local GPs in Cardiff to prescribe patients with a six month membership to the scheme.
Speaking before MPs Mr Zeichner said:
“Healthy living can be championed. In Cardiff, the bike share service provider nextbike are working with Cardiff City Council and local health bodies to enable GPs to prescribe to patients unlimited, free 30-minute hires of their 650 bikes.
“Cardiff City Council have stated that they are ‘fortunate and proud to offer this opportunity’.”
Krysia Solheim, the nextbike UK managing director, said:
“nextbike operates in more than 200 territories and is proud to be the most extensive bike share scheme in the world.
“Our track record is second to none and we have been praised in Parliament for the inclusive and community-minded nature of our ground-breaking projects.”
The potential risks of unregulated micro-mobility – including serious public safety concerns – have been voiced in recent months, prompting a move towards the bill.
“Micro-mobility is a potentially exciting opportunity, with data-driven services set to change the way we travel, but we cannot let companies who provide these services litter our towns and cities because as ever, the burden falls on our local councils to pick up the mess, and too often, the bill,” Mr Zeichner said.
He said the lack of regulation is damaging the potential of bike sharing schemes.
As a solution, he said franchising schemes with local authorities and agreeing on a timeframe for service provision could rectify some of the issues and allow users certainty when making decisions about their transport options.
“Currently, a provider can set up a scheme without permission, or even communication, with the local authority,” said Mr. Zeichner.
“Franchising would also allow oversight and local authority influence over prices, so they cannot be hiked overnight, as has been seen in some parts of the country.”
MPs were also told how some bike share schemes had been targeting only profitable areas of cities and not providing access to more deprived areas giving access to all.
“Regulation would mean that councils could agree the areas that the bikes would serve, making sure they are available in all parts of cities which need the service, not simply the most lucrative – sustainable transport solutions cannot be a postcode lottery,” said Mr Zeichner MP.
He used nextbike’s Glasgow Bikeshare4all scheme as an example which he said “tackles digital exclusion” while helping those “without smartphones or bank accounts access the schemes”.
Mr Zeichner said regulation would mean there would be more control over prices that can be charged to users and the area covered by a bike share scheme, the number and make-up of bicycle fleets, the sharing of location data, safety and monitoring and a more strict approach to where bicycles can be left with a locally agreed ‘Code of Practice’.
nextbike chairman, Julian Scriven welcomed the bill and believes the Government does need to take action.
“Many local authorities and combined authorities are rightly concerned about a lack of regulation in the sector,” he said.
“We are already aware of the issues that a lack of regulation can cause with some councils having to use littering laws to remove unwanted bikes belonging to non-licensed operators, at a cost to the local taxpayer.
“nextbike has demonstrated in places like Cardiff how well regulated bike share schemes with local authorities and health bodies can work.
“It is all about perception and getting people to change attitudes towards how they approach transport. But if the name of bike shares are constantly being sullied by currently unregulated schemes then changing that public perception is going to take a lot longer and be a much more arduous task.”