Manchester and Salford have become the first cities outside Asia to adopt high-tech Mobike for mobile bike sharing and making short trips across the city centres.

The world’s first smart, dock-free bike share scheme makes London’s “Boris Bikes” look cumbersome and outdated.

Up to 1,000 of the distinctive bikes, developed in China where five million are in regular use, are heading our way during the course of a six-week trial with a view to expand on a permanent basis.

The robust bikes feature non-puncture airless tyres, GPS trackers to record data which will help future deployment, built-in locks, chainless transmission and disc brakes. They work via a cashless smartphone app.

At the Manchester launch in New Cathedral Street, Cllr Pat Karney, the town hall’s city centre boss, hailed Mobike’s introduction as “the start of a cycling revolution”.

“This is the first step in making Manchester and Salford the cycling capitals of the UK. We’re never modest about our ambitions here. Like all good revolutions it starts with persuasion and I hope that Mancunians and Salfordians will review their means of travel within the city centres.”

The scheme, which began in Shanghai and has spread to 130 cities in China and Singapore, is funded entirely by Mobike, which hopes that its bikes’ iconic silver and orange look will soon become part of Manchester and Salford’s main city transport network.

Chris Martin, head of Mobike’s international expansion, said the bike sharing scheme would not only transform way people move and make the city much more accessible, but also usher in major environmental improvements. “People won’t have to bother with bus timetables or in what language to speak to a taxi driver,” he joked.

Mr Martin heaped praise upon the “open-mined, pro-active and optimistic” stance of Manchester and Salford city councils and Transport for Greater Manchester and said he was “touched and enthused” by the speed at which the scheme had been brought together – just three months from the initial meeting in March.

Steve Pyer, Mobike’s UK general manager, said: “Our aim is to be responsible, sustainable and innovative. We’re confident that Manchester and Salford and their residents will immediately see the benefits of our services and the cities will become a showcase for the urban transformation that is possible when cycling usage rises and city planning leverages smart data.

“We are already in talks with a number of other cities around Europe and are sure the successful pilot will be the first of many partnerships, allowing us to make cycling the most convenient and affordable choice for those in cities all around Europe.”

But why Manchester first?

“They were looking for a suitable bike share scheme for three or four years and had done lots of research. It’s proved to be a perfect time for Mobike,” said Steve, who was formerly involved with the “Boris Bike” scheme in London. He added that the bikes should be used taking into account the laws of the land. “We are encouraging everyone to ride responsibly.”

To use the service, you need to download the Mobike app to a smartphone via the App Store or Google Play and register.

Users pay an initial £49 deposit – discounted to £29 for the month of July. The nearest free bike can be located via built in GPS and you have 15 minutes to get to the bike and unlock it by scanning a code. You will then be charged 50p for 30 minutes. On completion of your journey, you are required to leave it at any authorised bike part near your destination.

The bikes were unloaded overnight before the launch at key locations jointly decided between Mobike, TfGM, and Manchester and Salford city councils. A strong focus has been put on the areas that are most convenient for locals – near major train stations (Piccadilly, Victoria, Salford Central), and major throughways (Oxford Road, Deansgate), as well as  food, retail, leisure, and entertainment destinations including Northern Quarter, Great Northern Warehouse, Piccadilly Gardens, amongst others.

The launch celebration – a first for Europe – provided the opportunity to showcase the high tech bikes for the first time, with demonstrations on their functioning.  Day-long events staged across Exchange Square featured a trial track for people to experience a Mobike first hand and stunt demonstrations.

The high profile launch was backed by the presence of representatives from global big hitters including Microsoft and Vodafone.

Alex Montgomery, Business Lead for Azure IOT & AI at Microsoft UK said: “Mobike is a great example of how companies can use Azure to improve the lives of millions of people. The cornerstone of Mobike’s offering is customer convenience. No matter where you are in Manchester, the intelligence built into our cloud platform will help you find the nearest Mobike, so you can get to where you need to go, quickly and easily.”

Andrew Taylor, travel plan manager at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “At Manchester Metropolitan we are very excited about the launch of the Mobike scheme. We are working closely with Mobike to ensure the scheme can be effortlessly accessed by our staff and students. The scheme will potentially mean that cycling becomes a more convenient and affordable way to travel, and we are optimistic that Mobike will support the greater uptake of cycling in the city.”

The signs are good. The first Mobike user downloaded the app at the first opportunity and was up and riding by 7.45am today.

Download the Mobike app and see for yourself how easy it is to get up and peddling in no time.

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Veteran journalist, food & wine writer and public speaker who is proudly born & bred here in Manchester.

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