When Mobike launched in Manchester
They say you should do one thing every day that scares you, so I cycle to work.
I would very much like to have access to a system like London’s “Boris Bike” scheme for the odd one-way journey, or when my bike, Benoît B Handlebars, is in for repairs.
And this week, Mobike launches in Manchester. So what are the prices like?
Well, Mobike fully intend to rent you a bike for £200 an hour. This puts them less in competition with other bike hire firms so much as with Argos, who will sell you a commuter bike to keep forever for £100.
And Mobike must know that. I would have thought it very hard to launch a bike hire firm without learning what bikes cost.
Obviously this isn’t the price they’re advertising: for most users the price is £1 an hour. The 200% increase only kicks in if your reputation score drops below 81. You start out with a score of 100 and it will slowly climb, unless Mobike judge that you have parked the bike in a private car park or lost the bike, in which case you will lose anywhere between 20 and all of your points, at which point you have to ride around at £200 an hour until you have clawed your way back to 81 points. Effectively, you would be living in an episode of Black Mirror.
Except obviously, nobody will do that. The sane response to a credit score below 81 is to abandon your remaining credit and close your account to at least get your £49 deposit back.
Mobike are keen to point out how easy this charge is to avoid:
Easy way to avoid ever receiving this charge - Don't commit crimes or try to steal our bikes... ✌️— Mobike UK (@MobikeUk) June 22, 2017
This is a fare no human adult of sound mind would ever voluntarily pay and which Mobike are at pains to point out will almost certainly never apply to you:
Hi all, To clarify - it's really very hard to get your credit below 80 and it's very easy to earn points to increase to up to 10,000!— Mobike UK (@MobikeUk) June 22, 2017
It isn’t a real price at all. It’s a £150 on-the-day rail ticket — the operator knows perfectly well nobody will ever buy it on purpose, but maybe they can trick some people into buying it if they make the cheap tickets complicated enough. It’s the £5/MB roaming charge the mobile network knows somebody will get hit with accidentally. It’s not the bank charge you can’t afford; it’s the three months of overdraft charges it triggers.
I don’t know the details of Mobike’s business model, but I feel uncomfortably like it isn’t “charge people £1 an hour to rent bikes”.