Cardiff’s Bike Sharing Scheme Struggles with Vandalism and Theft as Issues Resurface
A bike sharing scheme in Cardiff is showing signs of struggle more than two years after it was temporarily taken away from the city due to vandalism and thefts.
A bike sharing scheme operated by Nextbike, now owned by TIER, returned to Cardiff in January 2022 after a two-month hiatus.
However, in recent months it appears that similar issues relating to vandalised bike stations and missing bikes are resurfacing.
In a joint statement, TIER and Cardiff Council said they are currently considering what the best course of action is to deal with the issues being faced by the OVO bike hire scheme.
One local councillor, who is also the policy and external affairs manager for Wales at Sustrans, Cllr Stephen Cunnah, said he finds the current situation “frustrating”.
The Cardiff Council ward member for Canton said: “I have seen it myself in Canton and other places where there are often docks completely empty, and if they are not empty there might be one or two and obviously there is space for eight so they appear empty.”
The councillor added that on occasion there is a bike at the dock, but “for whatever reason it can’t be taken out”.
A check of the availability of OVO bikes across the whole of Cardiff at 12pm on Monday, November 20, found that there were 22 stations that had no bikes available.
There were never fewer than six stations without available bikes after a check was made every day between Sunday, November 19 and Friday, November 24.
The checks over the same period also showed that there were only 15 instances when there were four or more bikes available for use at a station.
Cllr Cunnah said: “I think there is a problem. That is what I am hearing, that is what I am seeing, but I haven’t seen anything from Nextbike or from Cardiff Council announcing the problem or . . . saying there is a plan to increase the supply.
“I don’t know what the answer is, but in the past there has been a problem relating to vandalism.”
A pile of Nextbikes was left outside Cardiff Castle after the operator announced that it was temporarily pulling the scheme from the city.
It was reported at the time that more than 300 bikes had been stolen from the share scheme and 260 had to be thrown away due to damage caused by vandalism.
Cllr Cunnah said: “It just looked terribly sad that it had all been taken away and piled up in a haphazard way and I think it was a bit of a shock for me.
“I don’t know the exact situation at the moment because I haven’t heard from the council or from Nextbike, but in the run up to that happening there was probably a similar situation where a lot of stations were empty.
“There was a lack of availability, the bikes were broken.”
In their joint statement, TIER and Cardiff Council said: “The public will be aware of the serious issues with vandalism and theft relating to Cardiff’s nextbike by TIER scheme over the last few years.
“Nextbike by TIER and Cardiff Council are currently considering what the best course of action is.
“No decision has yet been taken at this time.“
Cllr Cunnah said: “A good bike share scheme which is relatively cheap . . . it can encourage people to make that decision.
“It is certainly a lot cheaper than owning a car and it is probably cheaper than public transport as well.
“If the bikes aren’t there then that is going to make people reassess their choices because ultimately, some of the trips are for leisure . . . but many of them are necessary trips.
“Ultimately, the aim of having the public sharing system is to make bikes more accessible to those who don’t have their own, who haven’t got their own with them or who aren’t used to cycling but want to try it out.
“There are all of these different reasons that feed into it and that obviously is why the city has partnered with Nextbike to put it in . . . it just needs the care, attention and investment to make sure it continues.”
Bikes from the OVO bike sharing scheme are not the only ones that are being targeted by thieves.
Police data focusing on 71 streets in and around Cardiff city centre shows that there were 140 reports of bicycle theft in the eight months from January 2023 to August 2023.
Inspector Darren Grady, from South Wales Police, said: “OVO Bikes allows residents and visitors to travel around Cardiff in a convenient and environmentally friendly manner.
“The minority who steal or vandalise these bikes ruin the facility for others, and we are committed to working with nextbike and the local authority to continue clamping down on this mindless behaviour.
“We need the community to be an extra pair of eyes and to please report suspicious activity, vandalism, and theft.”
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