As the UK looks to become more and more carbon neutral and sustainable through transport, I thought what is the best way a 27 year old entrepreneur can help? So I set out to develop cycling participation in my area.
Hi, I’m Mark Shaw and I am the founder and managing director of DigiBike. DigiBike is a company focused on making cycling a more common and frequently used mode of transport here in the UK. We have set ourselves some tough goals since conception in September 2015 and this short blog will get you up to date to how we are doing so far.
Back when we formed in September 2015 we had an inkling that Manchester was shaping up to tender for a public cycle hire platform similar to what you can see in London and Liverpool. It’s from this inkling I made some initial inquiries with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to see what their plans were.
My first point of contact at TfGM was the intelligent and charismatic Simon Ho. Simon is an Innovation Officer at TfGM and he shared my ideals for cycling across the city. He took me under his wing and introduced me to a host of interesting people and gave me great insight to where Manchester was with reference to current and past cycling projects and funding. He showed me Manchester had big plans for cycling after winning a £20million grant as part of the governments Cycle City Ambition Grants (CCAG) fund and showed me what the money had, and would be spent on.
The majority of the money was going to improving the cities limited cycle network and I agreed as a cyclist, that back in 2013, infrastructure is where the money would have been best sent. So, “from 2013 to now, where does the city stand with regards to a public cycle hire platform”, I asked Simon. He informed me that at the same time as TfGM were applying for the CCAG funding as part of their bid, they did a feasibility study to check if the grant money could be spent on an public cycle hire scheme, to which the report came back to say it would greatly benefit the city, but Manchester’s transport infrastructure wasn’t ready for the influx of bikes.
2, nearly 3 years have passed since the CCAG funding landed in Manchester, and the question now stands, is Manchester and its transport infrastructure ready for public bike hire…. Yes it is!
This is where my journey begins!
After discussing in length with the transport authority whether or not Manchester will tender for a public cycle hire platform towards the end on 2015, they have in part said they will in 2016.
I was assigned a new innovation officer from TfGM whom had be hand-picked to do some reporting on the future for Manchester and its future public cycle hire platform.
My new innovation officer was another really nice guy called Kevin Toye. Kevin has a wealth of experience in the public sector and also with public cycle hire, and is accredited to the launch of Liverpool City Bike scheme.
I met with Kevin only the once, but what he had to say was deeply interesting and has set me on course for my future tender bid. Most importantly he told me what his role will be in the run up to the tender. Kevin will be compiling a report on what exactly Manchester’s future cycle hire partner will need to offer, and any requirements the system will need to meet to fit into TfGM’s already diverse transport network.
This information got me thinking, and off I got to work.
What does DigiBike have to offer and what sets us apart from our competitors?
Well after speaking with some truly knowledgeable and innovative people, we have developed a platform built for participation and integration. One of our key goals is to grow cycling participation in the Greater Manchester area and the UK as a whole. We aim to do this by a wider participation scheme which will promote and offer free cycle hire to some minority groups. These groups include 16-18’s, over 60’s and recipients of DLA & their personal carers.
We believe cycling is a great way to keep active and promote a healthier lifestyle and if offered to those most in need of it, it could greatly improve their lives.
Further to our wider participation scheme, DigiBike has 3 profit share partners where we donate profits to charities that do great work in and around the Manchester Area. Our 2016 charity partners are SusTrans NW, The Seashell Trust and Walking with the Wounded.
About the Author: Having grown up in and around Manchester, Mark might has well have been born with a saddle attached. Ever since being taught to cycle by a neighbour he got himself and friends into mischief by pushing the boundaries of his bike and his parent’s patience. Educated in Burnage, Mark wasn’t the easiest of students, constantly questioning the norm and pushing the envelope with many of his teachers. It’s from this deviance Marks’s creativity and passion grew. Through his life Mark has held a passion for few things, but cycling has been a constant in his life. Be it cycling for fitness, charity or just to get to work Mark has truly loved life in the saddle. Following childhood, Mark has trifled with a multitude of careers, but he has enjoyed none more than his current role at Cycle Republic as a sales advisor and his new venture in DigiBike.