Code of conduct created to help new dockless bike companies fit into Oxford


Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and the University of Oxford have created a code of conduct for dockless bike providers, after a series of companies announced they are considering opening in Oxford.

Unlike ‘Boris’ bikes, which have bike docking stations located around city centres, dockless systems use mobile phone apps to enable people to rent their bicycles.

OFO, a Chinese dockless bike company, recently announced its intention to open in Oxford, and several other companies have contacted Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council about opening later this year.

In response to issues that other cities have seen with dockless bike schemes, the county and city councils, in conjunction with other stakeholders, have produced a code of conduct for the new companies to make sure they fit into Oxford.

The code of conduct is being launched as there are currently no national licensing rules in place that govern dockless bikes.

It commits dockless bike companies to ensure:

  • Bikes are of high quality and well maintained
  • There is a strong mechanism for reporting bike faults
  • Bikes are not left in dangerous locations or where they cause an obstruction
  • Bikes are redistributed around the city
  • All bikes have lights
  • All employees are paid at least the Oxford Living Wage

The companies have also been asked to start with a pilot phase with a small number of bikes (50-100 each), and then expand only if the trial is successful and it is appropriate to do so.

Those signing up to the code will receive the endorsement of the city and county councils, while those companies that do not sign up to the code and block the city’s pavements could find their bikes impounded.

All the dockless bike companies planning to work within Oxford have so far agreed to sign up to the code of conduct.

Cyclists and organisations with an interest in cycling were consulted on the code through the Oxford Cycling Forum. The forum was created by the city council two years ago and includes cycling groups, both universities, the railway companies, cycle shops and local councillors.

Last month, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council unveiled new signs that proclaim Oxford “a cycling city” on all the roads entering the city as a statement of intent.

Last week London cycling adviser Andrew Gilligan visited Oxford. He has been tasked by the National Infrastructure Commission to work with local councils and organisations to create a vision of what is required for cycling to become a “super attractive” mode of transport in Oxford.

In 2011, 17% of commuters cycled to work in Oxford. The aim, through incremental changes over time, is to replicate the success of Oxford’s twinned city Leiden, where 70% of people commute by bicycle. The county council and city council are currently working on a Transport Vision for 2050 with the National Infrastructure Commission that will set the ambition for Oxford and the surrounding areas to have world class cycling routes.

Councillor Suzanne Bartington, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cycling Champion, said: “As part of the county council’s plan to reduce congestion and to accommodate more people travelling throughout the county, we are keen to encourage more trips to be made by bike in Oxfordshire.

“We believe that, if introduced in the right way, dockless bikes can play an important role in encouraging more people to cycle across the county. We will be working with partner organisations such as the University of Oxford and Oxford City Council to make potential dockless bike operators aware that they need to follow this new code of conduct to ensure their service works for everyone whether they cycle or not.”

Councillor Louise Upton, Oxford City Council’s Cycling Champion, said: “I have met with several companies who have contacted the City Council about setting up dockless bike hire schemes in Oxford, and we are working with them to make sure they offer a service that is good for the city. We welcome the fact that they are seeking our permission rather than launching regardless.

“Oxford is a cycling city and our ambition is to significantly increase the number of people commuting to work by bike, which will help reduce air pollution and congestion – and keep people fit and active.

“Dockless bike schemes could help us achieve this aspiration, but we need to make sure we get the right approach – one that encourages cycling but doesn't lead to bicycles clogging up the pavements of our small medieval city.

“So far, all the companies who have approached us have agreed to sign up to the code of conduct and we hope this will avoid problems."