In the summer of 2017 Manchester became the first UK city to welcome Mobike, a bike sharing service utilising Internet of Things (IoT) technology to enable users to cycle without constraint.
Unlike other forms of community bike share, Mobikes don’t rely on docking stations or designated parking zones. You’re free to leave a cycle in any public place, meaning you can travel the route that’s most convenient to you without worrying about the nearest parking point.
This is possible because Mobike is IoT-enabled. Every cycle is connected to a network which tracks and records location, so when you open the Mobike app you can find your nearest bike.
There’s an obvious benefit to this: it makes it easier to use a shared bike, which makes cycling more accessible as a casual form of transport in the city.
But in Manchester, the Mobike connectivity also serves a greater purpose as data from the cycles can be fed into the BT Data Hub, where it’s collated and organised.
This means Mobike is a great way of learning about the way cyclists use the roads in Manchester – and we can use this information to make the city better for bikes and the people who ride them, as well as other road users.
Data in the driving (cycling) seat
The biggest benefit of the Mobike scheme is arguably the insights it provides into cycling habits in Manchester.
We gain this insight by collecting real-time data from each individual bike and gathering it together in the BT Data Hub (along with all the other CityVerve travel and transport data).
The Data Hub takes in 200 separate travel and transport data feeds and makes sense of them, so that the information can be presented to consortium partners in a useful and applicable way – organisations like Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) – who were instrumental in bringing Mobike to the city.
This information is fed into the broader Platform of Platforms, where data from all the other CityVerve themes is also accessed. It’s then available to the wide range of CityVerve partners. These insights aren’t restricted to local authorities and city planners; they’re open to start-ups and other innovators too.
This helps to foster a whole ecosystem of innovation, from large-scale projects to smaller solutions.
And even though the data is shared widely amongst trusted partners, it’s protected from anyone who shouldn’t see it. This is a secure platform for all the information that’s stored there.
Through this process, Mobike becomes a valuable tool for TfGM, providing insights that can inform its strategy and investment for building and improving public transport in the city.
Using cycling patterns in city planning
Mobike was only launched in summer last year, but it’s already highlighted some patterns and trends in the way people use bikes in Manchester.
Looking at the data in the Hub, it’s easy to identify popular cycling routes. Some of them are completely informal, using short-cuts or pathways that we wouldn’t have expected.
We can also heat-map particular places in Manchester where cyclists tend to get stuck in traffic jams.
This is incredibly useful for TfGM and Manchester City Council, who can improve the routes that are popular by making them more cycle friendly, or encourage cyclists to take others that may be safer or quicker.
Encouraging first-time cyclists
Another clear trend that’s emerging involves the type of cyclist who uses shared bikes.
Mobikes are typically used on short journeys around a 20sqkm area of central Manchester. They aren’t used on long commutes from the suburbs – people use their own personal bikes for this.
This means that Mobike users are often casual or even new cyclists, taking up the bike as a transport option for the first time.
Encouraging new people to come to cycling is a great achievement, as it has obvious benefits for the health and wellbeing of individual citizens – and for the overall health of the city.
A better quality of life for everyone
The insights drawn from Mobike enable local authorities to constantly improve road conditions and infrastructure for cyclists. They also empower start-ups to design technology that will enhance the cycling experience.
Altogether this means one thing: it’s easier and more fun to cycle in Manchester.
This will encourage more and more people to get on a bike instead of driving, which will reduce the number of cars on the road and subsequently improve air quality.
So introducing Mobike has done more than simply empower cyclists. It promises to make life in Manchester better for everyone.