The Big Issue is pausing its e-bike share scheme in Bristol, citing, “extensive and relentless levels of vandalism.” In the short term the e-bikes will be made available for long-term rental, but the operator has asked police and local authorities to help it bring back its original service.
Big Issue eBikes was set up as a not-for-profit partnership between Norwegian micro mobility experts ShareBike and the Big Issue. The central aim is to offer sustainable and affordable e-bikes while simultaneously providing jobs and training for long-term unemployed people.
The project was first announced in 2020 with Bristol identified for a trial which got underway in February of this year. The long-term ambition is to roll out nationwide.
However, Bristol 24/7 reports that the scheme will be ‘paused’ from this weekend due to the staggering scale of vandalism.
In a statement, the Big Issue said: “Since we launched in the city six months ago, we have experienced extensive and relentless levels of vandalism to our e-bikes.
“We have taken many measures to try to overcome this issue, including making changes to the design of the e-bikes and trying to work with the local authorities, the police and our subscriber community.
“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the vandalism has not reduced. Having begun with a fleet of over 400, we currently have around 200 e-bikes on the street and approximately 10 per cent of these are damaged every day.
“In practice, this means that our entire fleet is vandalised every two weeks. We have more e-bikes destroyed in Bristol in one week than in all our facilities combined anywhere else in the world.”
The immediate plan is to offer individuals and businesses long-term rental of the bikes – effectively switching to a subscription model.
Users will get exclusive use of an e-bike, which they will be able to store themselves, with Big Issue eBikes providing maintenance and repairs as part of the monthly fee.
Ultimately though, the aim is to revert to running a short-term use share scheme.
Commenting on this, the spokesperson said: “We urge the local authorities – namely Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority – and Avon & Somerset Police to work with us to see if there is a way to avoid a permanent removal of our current public rental service from the city’s mix of safe and affordable green transport options.
“It is clear to us that if this issue is not fixed with our e-bikes, Bristol will be a no-go zone for all providers looking to introduce e-bike options.”
Dockless bike share schemes have often suffered as a result of vandalism, perhaps most famously when operator Mobike exited Manchester in 2018.
However, e-scooter operator Voi has however been operating in Bristol since October 2020 and seems committed to the region.
Voi has gradually been introducing e-bikes to its fleets and they are now in use in several UK cities.