Ofo bike
Ofo bikes will become a rarer sight in Greenwich and Lewisham

Greenwich Council has eased back on a scheme to bring dockless cycle hire to the borough after two firms providing a scheme in Southwark scaled back their coverage.

Southwark Council began a trial with Ofo and Mobike earlier this year to bring a hire scheme to its borough. Users download an app which controls locks on the bicycles and monitors where they are ridden and left.

In March, the then-Greenwich transport cabinet member Sizwe James told a council meeting that Greenwich and Lewisham councils were looking at extending the scheme to their boroughs from June.

Ofo’s yellow bikes and Mobike’s orange cycles have been familiar sights across inner London, but the two firms have recently reined in their coverage – including pulling out of most of SE London.

Last week, Ofo users received an email stating that the company was restricting its operating area to Camden, Islington, Hackney, the City and the northern part of Southwark – with users given a £15 surcharge if they parked their bikes outside the area.

Ofo coverage
Ofo’s new coverage area

Mobike’s operating area is now even smaller – with riders now restricted to an area around Bloomsbury, Camden Town and Clerkenwell.

Mobike’s operating area

But the roll-out of dockless bikes in London has not been smooth, with many bikes left in inconvenient or inconsiderate locations – and some even kept in domestic gardens and work cycle parking, a problem exacerbated by a lack of public cycle racks.

pretty sure dockless hire bikes aren’t supposed to be parked in secure underground corporate parking, but never mind pic.twitter.com/c6NtvRMRS2

— Malcolm Young (@malcomio) October 9, 2018

Theft has also been an issue, while last month the Southwark News reported that gangs were using the bikes to rob people in Peckham and East Dulwich.

A third operator, Urbo, withdrew from London in July while further afield, Mobike pulled out of Manchester last month after widespread theft and vandalism.

Dumped bikes have been a headache for local councils

The current environment, transport and public realm cabinet member Denise Scott-McDonald told 853 in a statement that the council was looking at how the schemes could be regulated first.

“The council would like to see a unified roll out of dockless cycle hire throughout south east London. However, we also want to avoid the problems some schemes have had in other parts of the capital, like abandoned and vandalised bikes.

“We are working with our neighbours and other authorities on how costs and responsibilities are regulated, with any commercial operator, before bringing a scheme to the borough.

An extension of TfL’s cycle hire scheme seems remote, with councils baulking at the cost of bringing the bikes to their boroughs. One exception has been Lambeth, which recently forked out £750,000 for a small extension to Brixton.

Transport for London subsidises each ride by £1.25, compared with 31p for each bus ride, which has led to suggestions the scheme could be scrapped.

Southwark Council did not reply to a question from 853 about the fate of its dockless hire trial, while Lewisham did not supply a response to an enquiry about its plans.

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