Bike sharing for safer, healthier streets

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Covid-19 has raised questions about whether bike share systems could continue to operate, especially given the risk of cleaning and maintenance staff becoming exposed to the virus. Yet by planning carefully and following government guidelines, the majority of Nextbike’s bike share schemes have remained open to provide safe travel for frontline NHS staff, key workers, and the general public.

Between April and June, we have seen a sharp rise in new users on our bikes. This, matched with over 1.3 million private bikes being sold by retailers, has led to a bike boom in the UK.

Some of our schemes have seen an 60% jump in rides month on month during the pandemic and a 5-10% increase in new users. Our Glasgow scheme has hit one million journeys since its launch and broke three records for daily rides in June. Our Santander Cycles Milton Keynes had to close for six weeks at the start of the outbreak due to the virus. However, on its reopening day, we saw strong rental numbers and these are growing day by day.

During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic we proactively worked with our local authority partners, universities and local/national businesses such as Scottish Power, Easit and Velo City on helping NHS staff and essential workers in Glasgow, Cardiff and Stirling. Offering free monthly memberships to those who would normally use a train or a bus helped keep workers moving.

In June, we introduced a 'corona voucher' that provided free, unlimited 30-minute rides to all inhabitants of Glasgow, Milton Keynes and Stirling for two to three months. These offers are the first and largest of their kind in the UK’s bike share market, with a focus on changing behaviour post-lockdown.

Bike sharing is now being recognised as a viable transport option. Several towns and cities are looking for a solution to an age-old question: how do we get more people out of cars and onto active travel options? One option could be to team up with other transport operators to offer a product that provides a one-stop solution across multiple modes and seamless user experience. Cities are innovating and allocating their road space to prioritise cycling and walking; a move we should all celebrate as it makes cycling a safer and more enjoyable transport method.

But will this continue? We definitely think so. With ongoing funding from the Government and local authorities reconsidering road space allocation, cycling and bike share could be poised to grow. But this will only be possible if local authorities and providers work closely together beyond this pandemic.

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Monday, 28 September 2020

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