Backed with almost £2 million in private investment, plus the perk of free 20 minute rides and a decent-looking e-bike for their customers to cruise around on, you could be forgiven for thinking HumanForest's bikeshare service appeared too good to be true... and after just a few weeks on the streets of Islington, the start-up have now announced that they have taken all bikes out of service following a customer "accident" - this has also led to significant job cuts.
As we reported just a couple of weeks ago, HumanForest went in hard with their eco-friendly message, saying they are "committed to you and the planet". All their bikes run off electricity from certified renewable sources, and are "strong and built to last". Unfortunately it appears that commitment didn't quite extend to their staff, as HumanForest admitted to TechCrunch that the hiatus until the spring of 2021 has meant they need to operate with a "significantly reduced team" to make the company viable going forward. Sounds reasonable to begin with, but a former employee told TechCrunch that numerous staff were let go with minimal warning after the bike defect was discovered. HumanForest defended the job cuts, saying: “Employees who had been with the company for less than three months were on their probation period which, as outlined in their contract, had one week’s notice. We will be paying their salaries until the end of the month."
It's still unknown what the bike defect is, but HumanForest have admitted that all their e-bikes were taken off the streets of London on the day of the "accident". They said: “There was an accident last week. Fortunately, the customer was not hurt. We immediately withdrew all e-bikes from the street and we have informed the supplier who is investigating. Our customers’ safety is our priority. We have, therefore, decided to re-launch with a new e-bike in Spring 2021”.
There is nothing on HumanForest's website about the suspension of services; instead they made a brief statement on their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, saying: "Treenions, we want to inform you that we will be taking a hiatus until next Spring to improve our e-bike. We’ve loved going on this ride with you and seeing so many of you help to make London cleaner, greener and more sustainable."
It looks like Londoners will have to make the capital more sustainable using other bikeshare services for the foreseeable, and we'll be following to see if HumanForest manage to get back up and running by spring next year as promised...