Vandalism and thefts of Greater Manchester Bee Bikes ‘out of control’ and leaders are cracking down on it

The number of bikes has been hit due to vandalism and theft
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Vandalism and theft has led to hundreds of Bee Bikes across Manchester being out of action – with numbers plummeting below 200.

At the end of July 2023, there were over 550 missing bikes, over 700 in need of repair, and availability dropped below 200, a report stated. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority has put in place a recovery strategy that has already seen the number of bikes increase back to 580 as of October.

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Speaking at a recent scrutiny meeting at GMCA’s headquarters in Manchester, GM mayor Andy Burnham said that the issue got ‘out of control’ in spring this year.

“The scheme hit difficulties in late spring,” he told the committee. “It was a victim of its own success as it was heavily used. 

“There were a number of big events and the levels of damage were out of control. I don’t think we had the system in place or the focus to get those bikes back.

“We’ve still got a success story on our hands given the level of utilisation. This scheme has got to be integrated into it (the Bee Network) as a multimodal approach. 

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“I think we are in a stronger position than we were but there are significant ongoing issues to address. We know it works but the key is to bear down on the loss of bikes due to damage.”

Bee Bikes in Greater ManchesterBee Bikes in Greater Manchester
Bee Bikes in Greater Manchester

A number of vandals and thieves have already been prosecuted in the courts for their actions, the committee was told. In order to deter vandals and thieves, Penalty charges have also been increased under the recovery plan, so if someone using a bike does not return it to an allocated station or out of its permitted area, they will be fined. 

Richard Nickson,  Programme Director for Cycling and Walking at Transport for Greater Manchester, said that better tracking and monitoring of the bikes will help prevent damage in the future. According to GMCA documents, throughout the recovery period (spring until present) usage and users has remained relatively high, but usage and users joining the scheme dropped over the summer. 

The mayor wants to see the Bee Bikes form part of the structure of the overall Bee Network and used in conjunction with other public transport. The scrutiny committee, who met on October 25, heard how students returning to the city will help improve uptake of the bike scheme.

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Since the Bee Bikes were rolled out back in 2021, more than 60,000 users have registered to use the service, and over 460,000 rides have been taken, representing more than 1.1million kilometres ridden.

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