Manchester bike hire scheme’s most – and least – popular starting points revealed

Greater Manchester’s new cycle hire scheme recorded over 39,000 journeys covering over 100,000km since its inception last year.

Launched as a pilot phase, more than 10,000 users have set off from docking stations along the Oxford Road corridor, MediaCity and the University of Salford. 

Responding to a Freedom of Information request from Mancunian Matters, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) listed the five most popular and five least popular starting points across the network up to April 1.

The five most popular are: Circle Square / Oxford Road, Wilmslow Park, Fallowfield Campus, Oxford Road / Dilworth Street and Bridgewater House.

The five least popular, all around the University of Salford, are: Library Café, Newton Building, Frederick Road Campus, Maxwell Hall Building and Sanctuary Students.

A previous facility called Mobike didn’t use docking stations and it was reported that up to 10% of its fleet of 2,000 machines went missing or were vandalised each month.

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In the same Freedom of Information request, TfGM said actual numbers fluctuate but there are currently 26 bikes in the new scheme reported as missing up to April 1. 

As well as the docking stations, the new arrangement relies on an app to control use and tracks the bikes.

Recently announced funding of £1.07bn is expected to continue the jigsaw of improvements to Active Travel networks across the region with new dedicated cycling and walking lanes plus improvements to existing arrangements.

The Oxford Road corridor is a mixture of segregated cycle lanes with kerbs and some have shared use with pedestrians.

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Salford is seeing improvements too with a £4m scheme along Chapel Street via the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund (MCF).

A pilot scheme offering hired e-scooters for ‘micro-journeys’ has also been operational in Salford since October 2020 and is scheduled to come to an end this month. 

We went along to all ten stations to chat to passers-by and users of the hire bikes to get their take on the scheme and the stations.

Most popular

1. Circle Square / Oxford Road

Situated perfectly for a mix of office workers and students.

It sits next to a part-segregated lane and needs some oomph to start off towards Fallowfield due to a gradient in the road.

Selecting the electric bike might help here!

2. Wilmslow Park

Nestling between Whitworth Park and the Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) – close to halfway along the 3.71km distance from the boundary docking points of the Fallowfield and the Palace Theatre on the Oxford Road corridor.

3. Fallowfield Campus

The launch of the pilot scheme came after many of the students in this area received their bus passes. 

23-year-old Darrel Mutongawafa prefers to take the hire bike, even up to the University of Salford.

The geography student was unlocking the bike via the Beryl app outside Owens Park.

He said: “It costs, like £1.50 to get on the bus. I can usually do this back and forth for about £2.50.

“On a weekday, when the students are here, it’s too busy (on the bus).

“I can cycle to Salford in 25 minutes compared (with) 35 to 40 minutes on the bus.

“I hope they expand more, especially the electric (bikes). 

“I had to walk from the stop over there looking for an electric but I said I might as well get a bit fitter.”

4. Oxford Road / Dilworth Street

A smaller spot sandwiched between the MRI and the University of Manchester and close to Whitworth Park.

5. Bridgewater House

The northernmost docking station on the Oxford Road corridor and closest to the Central Library and the station. This station was brimming with bikes – the app allows docking and ending of rides within a short distance if the station is full.

A University of Manchester lecturer docking his bike as we arrived – he uses the facility three or four times a week.

He said: “It’s quite convenient to me because I live in the city centre and mostly go to the university.

“I never tried the electric ones because I want to burn calories as well.”

TfGM has confirmed, in response to a Freedom of Information request, that 21% of journeys to April 1 were made by those e-bikes in the fleet.

They cost £1 to unlock and 10p per minute to ride versus a 50p release and 5p for each 60 seconds when pedalling without assistance.

Least popular

  1. University of Salford – Library Café

Tucked away on campus and not on any major routes through the city’s Peel Park, this small station sits next to a covered cycle shed that had plenty of bikes locked up. A Lime e-scooter for hire marked out its turf in the same territory.

Hannah Ashton, reading a BSc in Sports Rehabilitation at the university was passing by.

She mentioned it’s not far to get around on campus and had seen more people using scooters than bikes.

She said: “I just don’t feel like you need it, you might as well walk.”

2. University of Salford – Newton Building

Close to Salford Crescent station and embedded within the campus – like a number of the others in this zone, this docking point is not visible from the A6 road taking people and traffic in and out of the city.

3. University of Salford – Frederick Road Campus

Similar to the others in this area in its location at the School of Health and Society, this a small docking location and hard to spot and access from the streets. Peel Park is close to all of these stations and access through it for cyclists is relatively traffic-free.

4. University of Salford – Maxwell Hall Building

This station can be seen from the A6 and is just in front of the Salford Museum and Art Gallery on the Crescent. 

Catherine Tomlin, who works in the Salford University Library was on her way to work. She lives in Whalley Range and spoke about the road network in her area after speaking about this docking point.

She said: “I don’t think it’s a problem with the positioning of the bike stations.

“I think they’re really useful.

“They’re doing quite a lot of the cycle lanes (near her home) and they’re not all completed.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable cycling unless I knew the whole route was really safe.”

She said would consider using the bike hire scheme if there was the opportunity to travel locally into town.

Ellie Wood is studying Psychology with Counselling and Psychotherapy at Manchester Metropolitan University and lives around the corner from the University of Salford.

She wasn’t aware of the bike hire scheme although she remembered the orange Mobikes and knew about the Lime scooters. She’d been around the site for the past year and said she’d never seen the new bikes.

When asked about travelling between her home in Salford and Oxford Road she said: “Because it’s a close distance, I’d rather walk.

“I know it might be different with the bikes but the scooters, my friend tried to rent one from here and it only went to a certain zone so he ended up having to push it.” 

5. Sanctuary Students

At the northern end of Peel Park and close to the student accommodation nearby.

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