The UK’s first fully electric city- wide bike hire scheme

Bike hire schemes have experienced unprecedented levels of growth across the country in recent years. The introduction of the electric bike, more commonly known as the E-bike has also been met with growing enthusiasm as schemes have been set up, bridging the gap between the conventional bicycle and motorised forms of travel.  E-bikes solve many of the reasons people do not cycle such as; distance, hills, and ownership while still offering the benefits of a car such as flexibility, range and rush- hour speed.  

Co- bikes was the UK’s first on- street solely e-bike hire scheme and still is the only docked model in operation three years after the scheme’s introduction. Co-Bikes is operated by Co- Cars which is a not- for- profit social enterprise that runs a successful car club company in Exeter. Co-bikes has a monopoly in Exeter, with no other competition from dockless schemes or other operators. Co- Bikes targeted locations within the proximity to transport interchanges and business hubs in the city. This included docking stations enabling users to hire or return e-bikes at various locations on an A to B hire model.  

When comparing how bike share schemes perform, there are considerable differences between models. The standard metric for comparing bike scheme performance has become trips per day per bike (t/d/b), as it allows for variation in the number of bikes in the system. Tracking the utilisation of each bike helps explain the level of success of bike sharing schemes. Globally, usages rates for non e-bike schemes range from 2 to 8t/b/d however other high profile schemes have been found to be as low as 0.3- 0.5t/b/d.  

When analysing Co-bikes usage, it is important to recognise that the scheme launched on a skeleton network when compared with other operators. In Co-bikes opening year it had an average of 0.5 trips per day per bike and has been improving year on year since. The scheme reached 1t/b/d in July 2018, with peak days recording 40 rentals at 2t/b/d which is a comparable usage on London’s Santander bikes.  

Exeter has shown that a phased strategy of delivery can be extremely effective.  Following the success of this pilot, Devon County Council and Co-Bikes have secured funding to expand the network to 100 bikes in 2019. This will need to be analysed to investigate the relationship between network size and bike usage while also investigating the correlation between docking station locations, trip purpose and redistribution. This work could be used as a guidance to future e-bike schemes across the country to gain an insight into the motives behind membership and the reasons for discourage use.  

LS

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