From the 12th of June, freebikes will be arriving in London to be rented as both electric and pedal bikes with no unlock fee. The freebikes can be used without charge for the first 10 minutes in pedal mode and during electric mode, the rate of travelling is £1 for 10 minutes. For every mile ridden, 2p will be donated to the Lord Mayor's appeal and discounts offered to residents of the City of London. freebikes include a smart pause which allows the user to park the bike temporarily and pause the rental before recommencing their journey. The electric bikes can also be unlocked within seconds with the the freebike app or by swiping a contactless card for easy access.
The “smart, dockless electric bike sharing company” has been selected by the City of London Corporation to operate electric bike sharing services within the Square Mile. Along with Jump, an Uber owned e-bike hire scheme in Islington, freebike is giving people living in cities more sustainable travel options. However like Jump, freebikes focuses on a small area of London and isn't widely available to a larger group of people.
“freebike is looking to significantly impact transport around the capital by offering an efficient and more environmentally sustainable travel alternative” says freebike. “which, unusually for public transport, is a lot of fun” freebike’s electric motor also doubles up as an advanced locking system. This allows for "smart, ultra-fast rental, enforceable geofencing and protection against theft and vandalism".
The bike sharing company's approach on dockless operation is based on providing a reliable service without discarded bikes littering the already busy pavements of London. freebike’s solution operates with designated parking areas and an extremely high service level to prevent bikes being irresponsibly parked. If a bike isn't parked within a designated parking area, then it can be quickly located and moved with help from the equipped GPS and multiple sensors.
Co-founder of freebike, Katherine Butler, said: “We’re delighted to launch our first public freebike fleet in the UK and proud to be selected by the City of London Corporation to operate electric bike sharing in the City following a highly competitive bid. The electric freebike brings radical innovation in technology and approach and offers the public a fun, green, fast and healthy transport option around the City. We are passionate about getting more people cycling and out of their cars - electric bikes are a joy to ride.”
Alastair Moss, Planning and Transportation Committee Chair at the City of London Corporation, noted : ‘We are looking forward to working with freebike and Beryl, who impressed us with their innovative solution to issues facing London, such as overcrowded and cluttered pavements. This trial follows the launch of the City Corporation’s first Transport Strategy, in which we have placed a renewed focus on prioritising the needs of cyclists and improving the quality, convenience and accessibility of cycle hire facilities for City visitors, workers and residents to enjoy.’
Lance Uggla, CEO of IHS Markit stated: ‘Our team have been using freebikes to get to meetings in London for the past eight months. They're reliable, fun to use, save us a lot of time, but best of all they reduce our impact on the environment.’
freebike isn't alone in trying to encourage more sustainable transport. In April of last year, Uber brought e-bike hire firm Jump Bikes and launched the scheme in Islington. Although the rise in electric bike hire schemes may seem like a positive improvement, Green Party transport spokesperson Caroline Russell said the arrival of schemes like this merely serve to emphasise the need to improve infrastructure: “Unless we have more liveable neighbourhoods, less car parking and some protected bike tracks on our main roads, we won't see a wider group of people on bikes."