When Mobike, one of the most successful bike-sharing companies in China, landed in their first European city Manchester on June 29, it was expected that the new sharing model can fit into UK's mature public bike market.
But barely a month after the launch, the firm has already seen acts of vandalism on its units and the police receiving flurry of reports of Mobikes being abandoned or damaged beyond repair.
The company brought 1,000 new orange bikes to the city and within just a couple weeks, 50 bikes were broken, said Steve Pyer, Mobike's UK general manager. He admitted that the scale of vandalism 'took him by surprise.'
"In Singapore, we launched our scheme in March with 5,000 bikes and there have been just two reports of broken locks," Pyer said.
In an article published by The Guardian, editor Helen Pidd said that the public shared bikes were seen in the canal, in bins or stashed in someone's garden. "I would like to live in a city where people know how to share," she wrote.
She also described an occasion where a man stashed the bike in his backyard and refused to let her use it. An online video also showed some young people deliberately smashing the bikes.
Public sharing bikes have been in the UK long before Mobike arrived in the country. However, the new model does not require users to return the public bikes to certain locations as GPS is used to trace them.
The sudden appearance of the bikes on the streets of Manchester seemed to have caused the problems – from being abandoned to being targeted by thieves.
Whatever happened, Mobike is undeterred and insisted that the scheme will stay even beyond the planned six month trial, if wanted.
"The cycling culture in Manchester is fantastic – there is a lot of appetite for cycling, both from end users and local businesses and institutions wanting to get involved in various ways – and we're very happy to contribute to this overall enthusiasm," said Pyer in an interview with the Manchester Evening News.
Earlier this year, ofo, a rival company of Mobike in China, launched 20 bikes in the British city of Cambridge.
Britain, Singapore, and the United States are among the markets Chinese bike-sharing firms have targeted.