Bicycle-sharing company Nextbike has announced it will cease to operate on December 31, citing alternative micro-mobility options as well as a lack of infrastructure to support urban cycling as contributing factors to its closure. 

Introduced in 2016, Nextbike was the first bike-sharing company in Malta and at the height of its operations had some 60 hubs and more than 400 bikes, some of which were e-bikes. 

It allowed users to rent a bike for a short period of time, and also offered a free learn-to-cycle program called Bikeability.

In a statement, the company said that while it was pleased to have introduced the service and intended to be a “driving force” for a modal change in transport, it had since encountered some significant difficulties. 

“The emergence of alternative micro-mobility systems, ride-hailing services, and free public transportation, all of which are crucial elements of multi-modal transportation, forced Nextbike to endure fierce competition in recent years,” they said. 

“Furthermore, existing and future riders were reluctant to use the service due to a lack of suitable urban bicycle infrastructure and a general decline in road safety.”

Regular theft and vandalism and the COVID-19 pandemic had all "terribly" affected its operations.

Despite its own challenges, Nextbike said that there is a “clear” market for cycling in Malta, however, it will be hard-pressed to flourish without governmental support. 

A national bike-sharing programme is necessary, it said. 

“But these systems' unit economics won't function unless the government actively encourages, promotes, and provides incentives for people to use bicycles as a substitute form of transportation.”

Nextbike’s customer service number (+356 2099 6666)  will remain in service until January 21. 

The announcement that Nextbike will be shuttering its business comes only a few months after electric car-sharing service Go-To closed down in September. 

Go-To’s announcement came one day after one of its vehicles was involved in a fatal car accident in Swieqi, which claimed the life of 21-year-old Ben Laferla

In October, Times of Malta revealed plans by Infrastructure Malta to build an additional 50 to 60 kilometres of cycling routes, in a planned investment estimated to cost some €35 million. 

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