Urbo Bikes

To say that I was sceptical when I heard about Urbo bikes coming to Waltham Forest is an understatement. My immediate thought was the River Lea, and the High likely hood of the bikes ending up at the bottom of it. If you aren’t familiar with the scheme, Urbo operate dockless bike sharing, a bit like zip car but for bikes. You use an app to find one, unlock it, and you get charged for the time you use it. Sounds like a great idea doesn’t it? But I’m a cynical old goat so all I could think about was the things that could go wrong. Theft, vandalism, bikes bobbing around in the moat in Lloyd Park. But the more I read about the scheme the more interested I got, in fact, I started to get pretty excited.

Trying a Urbo bike became a bit of a personal quest. I downloaded the app as soon as it was available and waited for a bike to pop up near by, but none did. Last weekend I went out on a mission to find one. I roamed the streets searching for the mythical green bikes, I felt like Anneka Rice on treasure hunt. Sadly my luck was out and they evaded me. Actually I found two, but one was up on a balcony outside a flat, and the other seemed to be in someones back garden. After an extensive search I gave up and went to the pub.

This week, everything changed. At one point a small herd of urbo bikes popped up near St James St Station, then on Friday one arrived at the designated drop zone on Markhouse Rd. That bike, I thought to myself, is going to be mine. By Saturday morning the bike had moved from the drop zone so I needed to use the app to track it down. I found it in the co-op car park but had a minor disaster trying to unlock it. I hadn’t read the instructions properly so had failed to put credit on the app. This meant I could unlock the bike but couldn’t take it anywhere. I had to dash home, add my card details, then whizz back round to the co-op to collect it. I managed to lock my other half and the dog out of the house in the process, but that’s a different story (there were 15 missed calls and some very angry texts).

So here’s how it works. When you have credit on the app, and you’ve tracked a bike down, you tap the unlock button on the app, scan the QR code on the back of the bike and off you go. The scheme is incredibly cheap only costing £1.00 to become a member and 50p for each half hour you use the bike. Watch out though, although the bikes are dockless you are supposed to drop them at designated points (stop signs on the app). You can lose credit if you abandon them at random. Also, remember to lock the bike when you have finished otherwise you are still being charged. You lock them by pushing down the black lever near the back wheel (it took me a while to find it).

It’s fair to say that the app isn’t as accurate as it could be, so searching for the bikes can sometimes be a little frustrating. It can also be a little difficult to find a drop zone that has bikes in it. But, It’s also fair to say that these are very early days so there are bound to be a few teething problems. I still do wonder how well the bikes will survive, and I wonder how easy it will be to manage them. But all things considered this seems like a great scheme. It’s affordable, it’s borough wide, and the bikes with their bright green baskets are pretty useful. If you fancy giving urbo a go, search for my urbo on the app store, or visit the urbo website for more info.

 

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9 comments

  1. Really interesting article. Dallas (where I live) has four dockless bikeshare companies battling it out for territory. There are hundreds of bikes everywhere. It will be interesting to see how many and which ones survive. I talked to the manager of one of the companies here – he has had two bikes at the bottom of White Rock Lake (he knows because the GPS signal went dark at the shoreline). I haven’t ridden one yet (my folding bike goes with me everywhere) but I’ll try one soon and write a blog entry.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Bill. I also have my own bike, but really wanted to try out the dockless scheme. I really do hope it works out. This part of London got investment is cycle infrastructure through the Mini Holland scheme. Having urbo seems like the next logical step in that process. There’s a lot of support for the scheme within the local cycling community, but the key to it’s success will be getting non cyclists using it. Hopefully because of the incredibly low costs it will appeal to a wide range of users

  2. Hi,

    Tom Govern here, co-founder of Urbo.

    Firstly, thank you for taking time to try Urbo and then go out of your way to write an extremely honest article about your experience.

    This feedback is invaluable to us. As you mentioned above, with anything new, there will be teething issues. We will iron these out in the weeks and months to come. Fleet size will increase over time and this service will become more convenient for the people of Waltham Forest.

    Cllr Clyde Loakes and his team have been a real joy to partner with and they are fully behind this scheme.

    We’d really appreciate if you could continue to share both positive experiences and ways we can better our service for the people of your great borough.

    I hope your partner likes the green on the bicycles and that it reminds him of his homeland ☘️🇮🇪.

    Many thanks once again,
    Tom McGovern

    1. Hi Tom. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

      I’m sure issues will get resolved as the scheme beds in. I’m already seeing more of the bikes around Walthamstow.

      I really do think it’s a great scheme. Incredibly affordable so should help people who can’t afford bikes use them.

      I have a bike but there are occasions when I want to cycle somewhere and then walk back, which Urbo will be perfect for.

      I wanted to be honest in the post, especially about the credit and not being bale to find the lock because I hope that will help future sharers. I also wanted to mention my failed search for a bike, because it was already better the following week.

      Maybe in a few months if you guys are in E17 we could meet up and I’ll do a follow up post about how things have been going and plans for the future.

      Cheers

      Bill

    2. Cllr Clyde Loakes
      …is a totally mean-minded little piece of secondhand excrement.
      He is well-hated in much of central Walthamstow …
      AND
      Some of us, with memories loinger than a mayfly’s remember that he tried to get both the Water House ( William Morris Gallery) & the Vestry House museums closed.
      [ “Culture” is’t for his pleb followers, you see – in direct contravebtion of everything WIlliam Morris stood for ]

  3. Hi Bill,

    Yes, I really appreciate the honest article. Our team are striving to improve our service every day and its feedback like this that really helps.

    Would love to meet up for a coffee in the coming weeks to discuss our plans for the future in both Waltham Forest and London wide. Would you be able to send me on a few dates and times that work best for you to tom@urbosolutions.com?

    Happy cycling

    1. I have been cycling in Walthamstow since I was 11 – & I’m now 71 ….
      This scheme looks to be far too complicated, but hey it’s more empty publicity for Loakes, so who cares?

      As for cycling in Walthamstow, I remain convinced that it is worse & more difficult & dangerous, since the fake “mini-holland” scheme was forced down our throats after a faked-up so-called “consultation” with deliberately rigged results.

    1. Hi James. Having three gears they are pretty easy to operate. They aren’t too heavy they and run smoothly, or at least the one I used did. You wouldn’t win a race on one, but for short local trips they do the job just fine

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