Wednesday 12 July 2017 14.33 BST
London’s first dockless hire bikes were launched on Wednesday morning in the first phase of what is expected to be a rapid rollout of the machines by Singapore-based company Obike to cities all across the UK.
Obike – not to be confused with Mobike, which launched in Manchester exactly a month ago – delivered 400 of its bikes to the London borough of Tower Hamlets today, and intends to roll out thousands more across the city before the end of the month, at a rate of hundreds per day.
The bikes can be located and unlocked via a smartphone app, and left at the user’s destination, rather than a docking station, opening up many areas without access to London’s existing docked cycle hire scheme.
This morning bikes were dotted along Cycle Superhighway 2, so having downloaded the app, and paid my £49 deposit, I went to Bow to try one out. I scanned the bike’s QR code, which released the wheel lock via Smart Bluetooth technology.
Although it was like cycling on an exercise bike with the resistance turned up, its single gear was OK on the flat, and so long as I didn’t try to hurry – at all – it was fine. I managed to get it up to 19km/h very briefly, but overall I dawdled at a very sedate 12km/h. I passed several clusters of the grey and yellow machines at bike racks and Santander Cycles docking stations along the way.