Tuesday 20th March 2018, 7.30pm, St Michael at the North Gate, Cornmarket St, Oxford OX1 3EY

Whether you’re a regular user of one of the Oxford bike hire schemes or if this is something you have not done yet, this was an open forum on the new landscape for bike hire in Oxford.

We had a panel of representatives from some of the bike hire companies operating in Oxford to tell you what they have to offer, includes Pony Bikes, Ofo, Mobike, as well as a representative from Oxford City Council.

Tristram Wyatt summarised the discussion in an Oxford Mail ‘On Yer Bike‘ column, reproduced below:

“Corners of central Oxford have turned orange, yellow, and blue-green: you can’t miss the rows of brightly painted dockless hire bikes from Mobike, ofo and Pony. Download the appropriate app, scan the bike’s QR code with your smartphone to unlock it, and you can cycle it away.

These new dockless bikes have joined earlier, more traditional looking dockless bikes managed by Bainton Bikes of Walton Street. These also work from your smartphone. Honour and Kevin from Bainton Bikes joined other managers of the dockless bikes in Oxford at a recent Cyclox meeting to explain the changing face of bike-hire in Oxford.

Oxford may be unique in having so many dockless companies represented in one city, all competing for our custom. They have over 1,000 bikes between them. Most work on a model of a 30-minute ride for 50p.

This probably works best for the city centre, using a bike to travel from site to site around the city. At popular city centre spots there’s likely to be another bike to pick up for the next leg of your journey, making the bikes ideal for tourists. The bikes are not just in the centre. Ofo bikes cover the largest area, including Littlemore and Blackbird Leys where take up has been high.

Instead of hiring by the trip, to have a bike that is yours for the day or longer, you could rent a dockless bike from Bainton Bikes, hire a Brompton folding bike from the Brompton Dock at the railway station, or the many bike shops which offer longer term hire. You can also hire docked bikes and electric bikes from OxonBikes at key locations around the city. OxonBikes’ partners are the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford’s NHS Trusts, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

Will users leave bikes in the right places? Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council’s cycling champion, spoke about the voluntary Code of Conduct for dockless bike companies. The Code requires each bike to display a phone number on a label allowing anyone to report issues such as poorly-parked or broken down hire-bikes. The bike companies have teams of prompt-acting marshals to sort out these problems: it’s in their interest as the long term success of dockless bikes will depend on how well users behave. Ofo bikes’ manager Stuart McCarroll explained that currently they reward users who park their bike in a recognised bike spot, effectively giving the user a free trip. So far, theft and vandalism of dockless bikes has been rare. Oxford has been a model city, much better than other UK cities.

Dockless bikes could help offer more cycling opportunities without worsening the chronic shortage of secure bike parking in the city. Some Oxford colleges in the city centre hope that students might use dockless bikes instead of getting their own.

Overall, the brightly painted dockless bikes may encourage many more people to start cycling. It’s an exciting time for cycling in the city.”