Mobike & Manchester: The Bike Scheme Failure From Hell

Banned in Manchester!

Ah, Manchester, salt of the North—cement, football music, beer, and fish & chips. But we can’t add into that a “bike sharing scheme”, as theft and vandalism ended the dream back in 2018.

Mobike & Manchester

The idea is simple—download a free app, pay a fee, use the bike until your fee runs out. Then find a “suitable” parking place and lock the bike.

A different individual can then come across the other person’s safely stored bike, pay for it, and ride it a distance somewhere else. Great idea, right?

The Chinese business operates across 19 countries across the world. And it’s running successfully in over 200 cities.

Unfortunately, the North West of England doesn’t work like that. Particularly Manchester.

So when Mobike launched here in 2017, we sure as heck weren’t expecting compliance with the rules.

In the immediate aftermath of the launch, chavs (white caucasian males, on the whole) took to vandalism and theft.

They smashed those bicycles up good! Because it’s hilarious, right!? Good old delinquent men and women of a depressing age range.

Still confused about what a chav is? Here’s a trademark example—there are many of them and almost all of them are bigoted, dumb, and ignorant.

As we documented in our Japanese politeness post yesterday (KUUKIYOMI: Consider It!), manners are often lacking with these people.

However, after the first few weeks of chaos the situation appeared to calm down. Could Manchester Mobike scheme actually work!? Was our pessimism unfounded?

There were many people who took use of the service as it was intended.

We didn’t try it out at any point, namely as we walk everywhere. And whilst doing so around Manchester between 2017 and 2018 this type of thing was a common sight.

Mobike in Manchester on a traffic light
Image from the Manchester Evening News. By April Preston.

After a sort of latency period where the chavs grew bored of easily trashing things, they then returned with a vengeance.

Mobike warned Manchester the service was set for removal unless the vandalism and theft stopped.

We remember readers in the MEN and The Guardian comments sections reporting the various issues they’d come across.

One documented how they saw a family out in a park having a picnic with their bikes and how wonderful that was.

Except then they realised they were stolen Mobikes with the distinctive orange colouring daubed in black marker pen.

It’s difficult to describe if you’re not from here, but the Mobike scheme was doomed to failure before it even set up shop.

Manchester, and large areas of the North West, just don’t operate like the rest of England or the civilized world.

The service requires people to think sensibly and be generous. You have to leave the bike somewhere thoughtful and, crucially, not steal it.

That’s just not how many Mancs operate—it’s quite the opposite.

Bicycles are one of the most common things nicked in England. Park one up outside a shop and return two minutes later? It’s more than likely gone.

We once saw a chav steal a bicycle outside a Morrisons in Stockport in full view of everyone and CCTV.

The issue? Chavs (“scallies” or “townies”) run riot and are listless. With the problems in England over the last decade, the government presents them with a world where just getting a shelf stacking job is a miraculous achievement (such is the overpopulation problem).

And where homeownership and/or bulging bank balance are an impossibility.

The result is scenes like this are a constant thing—scaled down from the 2011 nationwide riots, at least.

However, they also have free will and seem to prefer to just smash shit up for the hell of it. Failsworth in Manchester, for example, is a no-go zone of feral mayhem.

Locals go to bed each night terrified of the chavs running riot throughout the suburb.

Added to that Manchester’s propensity for partying and drunkenness and you’ve got a recipe for demolished bikes.

So it was with no surprise Mobike gave up on the profit losses and abandoned ship.

In 2018, it announced Mobike was leaving Manchester. We’re the only city in the world to have forced Mobike out. Manc pride!

In a very diplomatic press release titled “Goodbyes are never easy”, it stated:

"We are very grateful to the City of Manchester to have been the first city in Europe to welcome Mobike. However, after careful evaluation, we have decided to remove our bikes and refund our users. As a private company, we have a duty to ensure our revenues cover our costs since unlike some operators we do not use taxpayer money to help balance our books. Unfortunately the circumstances in Manchester have not made this possible.

We want to thank the people of Manchester, Transport for Greater Manchester, Greater Manchester Police and the City Council for all their support. We have all learnt valuable lessons that will help cities continue to make urban life more sustainable, more active and more healthy through cycling.

We are already processing refunds to our users in Manchester, and advising people to check their bank statements. The refunds may take a day or two to arrive."

Seriously, the first city in all of Europe… why did it choose Manchester?! That’s where market research comes in handy.

Advice to other businesses like this—if you need to rely on public sensibleness and the collective goodwill of others with your service… don’t launch it in Manchester.


  1. This ‘hire a bike/scooter by app’ thing seems to have taken off everywhere – there’s a crowd known as Onzo who offer bike hire where I am in Wellington. A few have ended up in the harbour, but basically it’s been OK although the habit some riders have of weaving their way around pedestrians on inner-city footpaths is annoying. Lime were running scooters in Auckland but withdrew in December after Council rejected their application to continue. But they weren’t thrown out by feral humans.

    I think we need to bring back the Velocipede. Just the thing for the well-dressed plunger about town to ride.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In most places it works well, I think the London scheme has been largely successful over the years. It’s just a bad idea for the North West.

      I’m saving up for a personal helicopter instead.


  2. Riveting crime post!!
    The bike share thing is well and happy here. They have these long bike racks where you pick up and/or return them. The homeless like this. If they find a rack, and there are 2 or 3 bike slots in a row empty, they can use the bikes on either side to throw a tarp over, and create a home.
    Once entrenched, you’re good for weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

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