The future of Derby’s electric bicycle scheme is in doubt, due to a recent unprecedented surge in criminal behaviour.
The scheme was introduced at the end of June 2018, and council bosses says it has exceeded all expectations.
The bikes have seen over 7,000 riders travel nearly 150,000 miles in total since they launched.
Whilst the levels of vandalism and loss of e-bikes in Derby has, until recently, been much less than that experienced by other schemes, the last two months has seen an increase in bikes being taken out of action.
This, Derby City Council explained, is due to a high level of systematic vandalism.
Their supply of spare parts has now been exhausted and the additional supplies required are not readily available in the UK.
Over two thirds of Derby’s e-bikes fleet is known to be inactive due to this recent spate of vandalism, and the estimated cost of repairs is significant.
The police are aware and are actively engaged, working closely with eBikes Derby to assess the evidence and take action.
A council spokesperson said: “At present there are not enough e-bikes available to provide a useable network for customers and it is with regret that the eBikes Derby scheme will be suspended with immediate effect to allow the operators, along with the council, its partners and the police, to explore options to ensure the schemes future.”
200 electric bikes were introduced at 30 hubs across the city after the city council was successful in bidding for £450,000 funding from the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, with a contribution from the University of Derby.
The day to day running of the scheme is handled by Hourbike, the longest established bikeshare operator in the UK.
Derby City Council’s Cllr Jonathan Smale said: “With a scheme of this type, there will always be a degree of misuse and damage.
She added: “This new spate of vandalism has seen these individuals purposefully and aggressively targeting the cycle’s digital control panels, with extreme force and in some cases using hammers and angle grinders to remove them.
“It is very disappointing that such a successful and highly demanded scheme, that has been put in place to help local people get around the city, and be more active, is being put at risk by a small number of people intent on its destruction.
“It is very hard to understand why anybody would want to ruin an initiative designed only to benefit the community.”
Tim Caswell, owner and managing director or Hourbike commented:
“It is with great regret that we announce the temporary closure of eBikes Derby.
“We can no longer operate the scheme with the remaining fleet. We were therefore forced to recommend the temporary closure of the scheme, to allow time to consider our options, alongside our partners.”
He added: “We would like to offer a huge thank you to our loyal riders who have used the scheme responsibly and regularly – for you, we very much hope to re-open Derby’s electric bikeshare to full working order very soon.”
Stay tuned to So Derbyshire for updates – hopefully the temporary suspension can be lifted and the scheme brought back for the benefit of the local community.