Manchester’s ‘bee bike’ hire could cost from 50p

Journeys on the new planned bike hire scheme could start at just 50p, it has been revealed.

Chris Boardman with Andy Burnham  Credit: TFGMChris Boardman with Andy Burnham  Credit: TFGM
Chris Boardman with Andy Burnham Credit: TFGM

Council leaders are being asked by mayor Andy Burnham to support proposed tariffs for the £17m scheme, which is launching in parts of the city-region in November.

Around 1,500 docked bikes and 300 e-bikes will become available in the first phase of the scheme in Manchester, Salford and Trafford by mid-2022.

Mr Burnham sees cycle hire as a key part of the Bee Network, his plan for an integrated public transport system which also includes buses, trams, walking routes and taxis.

Under proposals due to be signed off by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) on Friday, the bicycles and e-bikes will be offered on a pay-as-you-ride basis.

Payment options will also be available to those without a bank account to ‘ensure that no one is excluded from using the scheme’.

But people who misuse the bikes – as had been the case during Mobike’s ill-fated stay in Manchester – could face hefty extra charges of up to £80.

Anyone who pays to unlock a bike will continue paying for it until it is returned to its docking station, a move aimed at avoiding a repeat of Mobikes being left in canals or vandalised.

What else do we know so far - and how does it compare to other schemes?

A report to the GMCA says the fleet will have the latest ‘smart’ technology, battery charging and braking systems, as well as ‘very comfortable and adjustable’ seating and gearing.

Beryl, the urban cycling company chosen to operate the Greater Manchester scheme, had initially proposed a £1 unlock fee for mechanical bikes.

However this has been scrapped in favour of a 50p unlock fee with a view of encouraging more people to try the scheme. It will then cost 5p per minute during the journey.

Around 70 per cent of journeys taken on Beryl’s six other bike hire schemes last for less than 20 minutes and cover a distance of less than 5 kilometres, according to analysis by the firm.

This is a ‘key target’ for modal shift, the means of switching from one form of transport to another.

The initial cost of unlocking an e-bike has also been reduced to £1 with riders charged 10p per minute, putting a 20-minute e-bike ride at £3.

“This means a 20-minute ride by e-bike will be similar to a tram fare, with the added benefit of the flexibility that travel by cycle brings,” says the report.

“This tariff would make Greater Manchester cycle hire one of the best value schemes to use in the UK and will provide a very positive benefit to the transport offer of the region.”

Journeys by hire bike can be paused and both types of bike can be docked in any available station, says the report.

If a bike is locked away from a docking bay – excluding paused journeys – then a £5 charge will be added onto the hire fee. 

A user who fails to lock a bike, meaning the control room is required to manually end the journey, will need to pay an extra £10.

If a bike is locked outside of the scheme zone, this will carry a £10 charge that will rise to £80 if the bike is not returned within 24 hours.