“These could transform the city - not just in the way you move, but in social and economic terms too.”
Chris Martin, head of International at Chinese firm Mobike, is describing the roll-out of a bike-sharing service in Manchester and Salford.
In their home market, China’s bike-sharing companies are charging full speed ahead. But in the West, they’re stuck in first gear.
Throughout 2016 and into this year, thousands of bicycles flooded the streets of China, as startups vied to become the country’s “Uber for bikes.”
Unlike with most bike-sharing schemes, the “dockless” services that have emerged in China allow bikes to be parked anywhere, not just in designated racks.
That’s not stopping the companies from moving out of China, though. Mobike, a bike-sharing company based in Shanghai, announced today it closed a $600 million funding round to finance its international expansion.
A few days ago, it said it will soon dump a thousand bikes on the streets of Manchester, England, marking its first major expansion outside of Asia (inside Asia, it’s also in Singapore).
Despite ambitions to sweep the West, progress has not kept up with the pace seen in China.
In England, Ofo has had 20 bikes on the streets of Cambridge since April, but it has yet to expand its fleet to China-style proportions.
With a thousand bikes set to enter Manchester, Mobike will get bragging rights among its peers for the largest number of bikes deployed in a single Western city. Then it will have to repeat, again and again.
The scheme features an accompanying app which uses GPS technology to show riders where the nearest available bike can be found.
The scheme will be launched on 29 June and is backed by both councils.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham welcomed the scheme and said he was keen to take a "positive approach to promoting cycling" in the region.
However, he said Mobike was an "untested idea in the UK" and would be kept "under review".
"We're conscious that our city centre is a complex and busy area already, so Transport for Greater Manchester has been working hard to establish a voluntary code of working with Mobike to make sure the service operates in a way that doesn't inconvenience other road users, pedestrians or city centre traders," he said.
"If successful, it could play an important part of our long-term plans for cycling in the region and for making travel easier and more sustainable."
Users will be required to leave a deposit. While the exact price is yet to be finalised, a Mobike spokesman said it was likely to be about £50.
Riders are encouraged to use the bikes for short journeys at a cost of 50p per half-hour.
Mobike said its distinctive silver and orange bikes would initially be deployed at "high-traffic locations" such as Metrolink stations and retail parks.
sino.uk is excited to see how this develops and spreads to other cities, keep checking back for the latest.