Well, yes, it is Manchester

I really wanted to believe that Mancunians could be trusted with nice things. Just over a fortnight ago, a Chinese company called Mobike brought 1,000 shiny new silver and orange bikes to my city. Unlockable with a smartphone and available to rent for just 50p for half an hour, they could be ridden wherever you liked within Manchester and Salford and, crucially, could be left anywhere public once you were done.

I was an immediate convert, boasting about the superiority of our new bike-sharing system over London’s, pitying sadsacks in the capital who had to trundle around looking for a docking station. One sunny evening shortly after the launch, I rode a Mobike to Salford Quays, where I swam a mile in the filtered water of the glistening Lowry, reflecting as I did my backstroke that Manchester was starting to feel rather European. I had always fancied living in Copenhagen, where the cyclist is king and the harbour has been turned into a lido. Was I now living that continental dream?

Two weeks on and I fear that a dream is all it was. There are Mobikes in the canal, Mobikes in bins and I am fed up with following the app to a residential street where there is clearly a Mobike stashed in someone’s garden. On launch day, the Chinese designer told me the bikes were basically indestructible and should last four years without maintenance. It took a matter of hours before local scallies worked out how to disable the GPS trackers and smash off the back wheel locks.

On Thursday, none of the eight bikes showing on the app as being near my house were actually there. I was so incensed when I reached the location of the ninth and could see it locked away in a backyard that I lost control of my senses and knocked on the door. A young man opened it and I asked nicely if I could rent the bike. He looked surprised and said, no, it was his, and anyway, he needed it later. I explained that was not how the system worked, that the bikes were public, and that if everyone was as selfish as him the whole thing would collapse. He rolled his eyes and told me I would be trespassing if I dared try to fetch it.

Imagine the result if they’d tried it in Liverpool?

Here’s it’s the Chinese imagining that some section of the British are not as they are. But it is, writ small, the basic problem with much of what government has, over the years, planned for much of Britain. A constant and consistent insistence that Britons are not as they are.

64 comments on “Well, yes, it is Manchester

  1. And why are Mancunians like that? Decades of tolerance of low-level crime and anti-social behaviour.

  2. The comments below the article are classic: apparently, this behaviour is all down to Mrs Thatcher…human nature changed in 1979!

  3. Actually the exact same thing happened when they first introduced the bikes in China. But they kept on just replacing and pumping new bikes in. After a few months people just got bored of stealing / breaking them (given there were brand new ones just hanging around on the street for rent, stealing one became more hassle as you had to keep it and defend it etc…) and it now all works fine.

  4. jgh
    Slight misunderstanding – you unlock them with a smartphone app.

    I predicted this would happen.

  5. Sorry, by “this” I meant the nicking and trashing of the bikes, not that jgh would slightly misunderstand!

  6. In the early 90s I lived in Manchester as a student. One day I saw a new promotion by Levis in a bus shelter on Oxford Road. They had various hoardings up advertising jeans and there was a brand new bench in the bus shelter that was completely backed in blue denim. It looked really good. My immediate thought though was that someone was going to steal it very soon. However when I looked more closely there were massive bolts in all 4 corners of the bench. My guess was that they must have gone down several feet into the ground. So I then assumed they had that covered and it would be OK. The next day I went past on the bus and the bench was gone. There 4 huge holes several feet deep in the ground. I guess someone turned up with a piece of industrial equipment in the middle of the night and nicked it for their front lounge.

  7. Don’t they have the credit card details of those using the bikes? An automatic £100 deduction per month should concentrate minds, until they change CCs. Or maybe make it those with mobile phone accounts only and dock their accounts. Having their mobile suspended should also conctrate minds.

    The problem here is that nobody had skin in the game so had no reason to think through what was likely to happen.

  8. This article is a good demonstration of why, contrary to a lot of people’s claims and fervent hopes, the sharing of autonomous vehicles is not going to make much of a dent in the number of vehicles on the roads of the US.

    Because we will just trash the mothers – after all, its not *mine*.

  9. “Bloke in North Dorset
    July 17, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Don’t they have the credit card details of those using the bikes? An automatic £100 deduction per month should concentrate minds,”

    The problem is that *someone else* has broken the lock on the thing or simply taken it while you were in the store. Probably both.

    But the author should wonder why the London one requires you to return the bike to a stand in order to clear the account.

  10. But its kind of funny – the sort of leftist who loves these schemes is also the sort of leftist that bitches that ‘the police protect the property of the rich!’.

    When the only way this sort of scheme can succeed is if the police become enforcers for the company running the bike share. With cops knocking down doors to recover bikes (like they do over here from time to time to recover iPhones).

  11. Is any of our tax money gone on this folly? Or is it just the Chinese fronting up for this? In which case it might be better filled under foreigners.

  12. There’s trashed ones lying around in Dongguan too. Motorcycle drivers who offer people rides don’t like them for obvious reasons and have been going around scratching off the QR codes. They also get left all over the place and make the city look a mess. We have about 5 different companies dumping them everywhere blocking the pavements. The Mancs who are chucking them in the river are performing a civic duty imo.

  13. Didn’t they try this in Amsterdam in the 1960s? The White bicycle plan?

    Didn’t they all end up getting nicked?

  14. What would happendix if they tried it in Liverpool?
    Well, what you wouldn’t try in Liverpool is knocking on a door and pointing out that bike stashed in the back garden is public property and I’ve come to take it away.

    Christ on a bike (soon to be knicked)

  15. I’ve never been anywhere I dislike quite as much as Manchester. OK, Oldham. But that’s really part of the same general place.

    It’s the people. They’re cold, brusque and unhelpful. And this isn’t a North thing. I’ve worked with people in Sunderland and Leeds and both were friendly, especially in Sunderland. Mancunians seem to take some sort of pleasure out of being sarcastic, aggressive pricks, as if that’s a way to win friends and influence people.

    The reason it’ll never be Copenhagen is twofold: 1) Copenhagen puts their scumbags on the outskirts of the city 2) Copenhagen is smaller. Lots of scumbags + large population is a toxic combination. You don’t get so much crime in small places because everyone knows each other. You’re going to get pinched. Your family is going to suffer as a result in small ways.

  16. “Turner Prize-nominated artist Phil Collins spent months trawling former Soviet States, including Ukraine and parts of Russia, to find the perfect decommissioned statue of Engels for the project.”

    There’s this thing that’s been on my mind
    All the time
    Gu-gu-gulago! Oh oh!

  17. A mate of mine once ran a pub in Salford. He had the gents refurbished and afterwards there were four nasty stained old urinals left in the back yard of the pub waiting to be taken away with some other rubbish.

    Someone broke in overnight and took them.

  18. I had a week’s work in Liverpool a few months ago, and my company put me in a Travelodge in the city centre. On the first evening I went for a wander around. God, it was a dump. Anon for obvious reasons!

  19. The comments are gold, as they often are when a Guardianista accidentally intersects with reality.

    Self-awareness in the Guardian?

    It’s an unfortunate fact about this country that a sizeable minority of people are brainless, ignorant arseholes who seem to have no purpose on this earth other than making everyone else’s life a misery, and actually take pleasure in doing so.

    Non sequitur ergo sum:

    When you have a society that rewards talentless vermin with the highest titles in the land then this is what we get. A nation of thieves and parasites. Britain came to power as a kleptocracy and remains so.

    The tragedy is that those at the bottom rob each other rather than the Tory parasites that create this mess.

    We don’t teach Robin Hood enough in schools.

    Pseud’s corner:

    the English are still wedded to the lack of identity they enjoyed in the imperial era, and so, like other psychotics, have no sense of equality with others, or responsibility towards them.

    The referendum vote does not deserve to be respected because, as an outgrowth of English narcissism, it is itself disrespectful of others, of our allies, partners, neighbours, friends, and, in many cases, even relatives. Like resentful ruffians uprooting the new trees in the park and trashing the new play area, millions of English, the lager louts of Europe, voted for Brexit in an act of geopolitical vandalism.

  20. Anon – don’t worry, they don’t have internet in Liverpool.

    They used to, but the locals nicked it.

  21. I had a week’s work in Liverpool a few months ago, and my company put me in a Travelodge in the city centre.

    Me and my team used to have regularly attend courses in the city centre. We got very used to the Crowne Plaza.

  22. I can’t remember which former Warsaw pact capital city it was, Prague, Vilnius, Riga…. But they had a museum of Soviet era statues plus one of Brezhnev’s bullet-proof limos. Lots of Lenins. Lots of Stalins. Very few of Marx. I am sure that there were none of Engels. Why would anyone want a statue of Engels? In essence, this guy just got a subsidised holiday in Eastern Europe

  23. The third highest rated comment on that story when I looked earlier

    “asparagusnextleft 17h ago

    Has been thus all over the UK, ever since May 1979.”

    Like Mornington Crescent for Lefties – no rules for getting there but the first one to shout “THATCHER” wins

  24. @BiS,

    Mancs have defensive programming. There was a long period of time, mid/late ’90s, when you could literally get shot for looking at someone funny. It’s still really not done to just go up to people on the street and talk to them. The fact that this guy felt self-assured enough to challenge someone hogging a bike shows how much the place has changed (for the better).

    With the bikes, there is no security that would make them safe from the determined and resourceful scrotes that infest the inner reaches of the city. But it sounds like security is also not adequate to deter the self-centered habits of a much wider section of the population.

  25. “A constant and consistent insistence that Britons are not as they are.” That’s only the half of it: the construction of a welfare state that might almost have been designed to make them worse.

  26. I guess someone turned up with a piece of industrial equipment in the middle of the night and nicked it for their front lounge.

    When I was growing up around 25 miles from Manchester, we used to say of the place “anything that isn’t concreted into the ground or too heavy for six men to lift will get nicked”. It appears that concreting into the ground is no longer sufficient.

  27. Bloke in Swindon,

    > Copenhagen is smaller

    They’re basically the same size. Copenhagen metropolitan area is 2.4m, Greater Manchester is 2.5m. No idea about the distribution of the underclass in Copenhagen.

    Dongguan John,

    > There’s trashed ones lying around in Dongguan too

    [Mobike UK’s general manager] does admit that the scale of vandalism took him by surprise. It has been far worse than in any of the Asian countries where Mobike operates

    Manchester is exceptionally bad.

    Dearieme,

    > That’s only the half of it: the construction of a welfare state that might almost have been designed to make them worse.

    Denmark and Switzerland manage to have welfare states without completely corrupting their work ethic. Welfare in itself needn’t be damaging (not a popular argument on here, no doubt…); but the British implementation of it yields spectactularly poor outcomes.

  28. Ted – Excellent. Have a drum solo on me!

    Biggie – Mancs have defensive programming. There was a long period of time, mid/late ’90s, when you could literally get shot for looking at someone funny.

    Oh, come on. It’s a shithole, but it’s not Boyz n The Hood.

    More like Chavs n The Hoodies.

  29. @The Inimitable Steve

    Those are some brilliant comments showing the projection and complete lack of familiarity with crime and its causes that the guardian reading classes have.

    Simply put. Crime is about opportunity. In a city where trust is lower (lots of people) and you can be anonymous (see trust but also less obligations to people) combined with opportunity (easy nickable bikes) then you get crime and a rise in crime.

    All the guff from the commentators and to be honest a number of right wing people who bang on about moral degredation are missing the fact that oppportunity is the most important factor in why crime exists.

  30. “Welfare in itself needn’t be damaging “: you seem not to have grasped my point that it’s the design of the welfare state that matters.

  31. Pingback: Manchester as I saw it | White Sun of the Desert

  32. @TIS,

    I lived in Moss Side when it was at its peak. Shootings were a weekly occurrence.

    Sure, it’s not the US, but not normal for Britain either.

  33. TIS,

    “Oh, come on. It’s a shithole, but it’s not Boyz n The Hood.”

    I don’t know, but BiG has perfectly summarised the difference I get in Manchester and everywhere else. I don’t think it’s exactly rudeness, but very defensive.

    And it’s what Rob Harries says about low/high trust. If you go to places like Trowbridge or Calne in Wiltshire, it takes a while to figure they’re quite poor places, because there’s little criminality, and little on display. Not only is there almost no graffiti or vandalism, but there’s none of the visible countermeasures on display. You don’t have gated communities or car parks with fences around them.

    Well, it’s that or there’s a Neighbourhood Watch Alliance burying bodies under the cathedral for the greater good.

  34. Lots of people shot for the crime of being “black on a bike”, mistaken identity mostly.

    Read Tim Newman’s article, I endorse every word of it. Violence, and destruction, among your own squalour, characterises the underculture of the city in a way few places can match*. Sure, there are no “no go zones”, but there are zones you don’t want to hang about in.

    *Parts of North Philadelphia come close, and look architecturally similar as well.

  35. TiS: Basically, the Grun are saying that people who don’t vote they way the Grun wants them to should not have the vote.

  36. Rob – Yarp. I reckon Christianity has it right. Man is fallen by nature. It’s why children are such horrible little bastards who need to be dragged into responsible adulthood.

    BiG – Bloody hell.

    BiS – Everyone and their mums is packin round Gloucester.

  37. @Andrew

    “Didn’t they try this in Amsterdam in the 1960s? The White bicycle plan?”

    But at least that gave us ‘My White Bicycle’.

    (Not the Nazareth version, Tomorrow’s original)

  38. Anon

    In he 13 years I’ve lived here Liverpool has transformed, so I just don’t agree with you.

    However, this might be the most thin-skinned city in the World. So yes, I would stay anomymous.

  39. Manchester’s my home city, but as I no longer live or work there I notice things more- especially is how dirty it is. The pavements and roads are poorly maintained and most of the city centre is full of rubbish and smells of piss.

  40. What is the cause?

    The welfare state in general ie whatever you do we will look after you regardless of what scum you are and how badly you behave. Fatherless bastardy caused by the welfare state being the slags consort rather than her at least having to try to be a decent woman.

    Bullshit leftist “values” from the 60s on–nothing is your fault–it’s society etc. More interventions and takeovers by the scummy state forcing an end of self-policing where lots of local shitebags would have had the crap beaten out of them as an incentive to behave better.

    Former communities all fucked up by 60s tower block socialist utopian fuckwittery ( and still destructive 50 years later).

    And a measure of imported criminality as well.

  41. Tim Newman reminds of a few more points

    — A shit state socialist education system,
    — A pathetic range of criminal punishments–if caught burglars had the living shit beaten out of them in a ring in Manchester city centre burglary might just decline a bit.

    –Brazen official hostility to personal self defence and –if needed–vigilante actions.

    And likely lots more.

  42. Fine young communists like Barrack Obama explain that communism always fails because it hasn’t been implemented by the right people.

    We have here an example of the reality: it always fails because of whom it is implemented upon. People.

  43. ‘All the guff from the commentators and to be honest a number of right wing people who bang on about moral degredation are missing the fact that oppportunity is the most important factor in why crime exists.’

    Ooooh! Right wing people!

    Oppportunity (sic) is everywhere. Human behavior is a function of consequences. Steal a bike, keep it in your garden, nothing happens. You get to use the bike when you want to. Positive consequence.

  44. > oppportunity is the most important factor in why crime exists

    And the absence of fear of punishment.

    I’m sure there’s plenty of opportunity for crime in Singapore – especially as the locals aren’t used to it – but the punishments are sufficiently harsh to act as a deterrent.

  45. Thunk…Thunk….Thunk…Thunk….

    Sorry, I just needed to bang head against something.

    >I had always fancied living in Copenhagen, where the cyclist
    >is king and the harbour has been turned into a lido. Was I
    >now living that continental dream?

    All these years whilst we were members of the EU, any British person could go and live in Copenhagen. Or any other European Union city. Nothing was stopping them. All you would need to do is go. OK, there would be a language issue, but if you were determined enough and were willing to put in the effort, that should not have been enough to stop you.

    But no. What we have is a bunch of left wingers who have unilaterally decided that Britain should stop being Britain and re-model itself on a European City that is seen as modern and fashionable.

  46. When I lived in Bradford I was spoilt for choice when it came to getting a decent curry but if I had a hankering for Chinese it was simple to nip on the Transpennine bus and land up in Manchester city centre 30 minutes later. I quite liked the joint. Bradford, on the other hand…. Suffice to say that the way I would have liked to leave Bradford would have been supersonic in the backseat of an F-15 flicking Vs at the fucking place as the thermonukes headed in.

  47. BiCR,

    My family hail from Bradford but none of the live there now.

    It has the distinction of being a city that had a massive slum clearance in the ’50s and early ’60s followed by a massive slum creation in the late ’60s and ’70s.

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