NEXTBIKE is removing their bikes from Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan due to vandalism, theft, and threats to staff.

The OVO bikes will be removed from Cardiff and the Vale - including Penarth - from November 15 while nextbike looks to repair the fleet where possible and bring in additional bikes to bolster fleet numbers, ready for a relaunch early next year.

But if the situation does not improve the schemes in these areas may close permanently.

Nextbike launched its Cardiff fleet in 2018 to provide sustainable and affordable transport and since then - combined with the Vale of Glamorgan fleet which launched in 2020 - the scheme has attracted almost 136,000 customers who have clocked up more than 1.2 million rentals across the city.

In that time, riders have covered a staggering 3 million km - meaning the scheme has prevented 351 tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere - which is the equivalent of planting almost 16,000 trees.

But since that date, more than 300 bikes have been stolen - with 130 of those being taken since August this year. And 260 bikes have also been scrapped because of damage caused by vandalism – including bikes being set on fire, snapped in half, and dumped into rivers.

Krysia Solheim, nextbike UK Managing Director, has warned that is the crime rate continues when nextbike relaunches in Cardiff and the Vale they will be forced to permanently close the schemes.

“The amount of vandalism and theft that we have seen is simply staggering and not something we’ve experienced to the same extent anywhere else in the UK,” she said.

“We are temporarily removing bikes while we repair those that can be repaired and investigate what safeguards are in place around our bike stations - for example CCTV and street lighting - and how this can be improved.

“We will be readjusting the network to move stations to safer areas where needed. We will also be providing our staff with body cameras for their own protection.

“It’s a very small minority causing most of the damage. We’ve identified the groups responsible and are working with the police and local authorities to engage with them to deter such behaviour in the future.

“The private investigation firm we recently tasked with monitoring our bike docks in the Cardiff area, successfully recovered 16 lost or stolen bikes over a two-day period. They were shocked by the behaviours they witnessed.

“We know the vandalism has affected the service for our customers, especially over the last few months, and we’d like to apologise for this because we know people rely on the scheme to get around.

“The bikes will be back on the streets early next year, but if vandalism and theft continue at this rate, we will have no other choice but to pull the scheme permanently or significantly reduce the current network.”

Ms Solheim said nextbike staff have been threatened when trying to recover bikes – including one being urinated on, and another being chased by someone with a shovel.

Inspector Darren Grady, from South Wales Police, said: “The minority who steal or vandalise these bikes ruin the facility for others, and we are committed to working with nextbike and the local authority to continue clamping down on this mindless behaviour.

“Abuse of nextbike employees, theft, and vandalism will not be tolerated and our Neighbourhood Policing Teams are extremely proactive in arresting those responsible.

“In [Cardiff] city centre alone, nine people have recently been convicted at court for such offences resulting in prison sentences, fines and community work.

“We look forward to seeing the bikes back on the streets soon and we appeal to the community to help protect the scheme when it returns.”

Cllr Peter King, Vale of Glamorgan Council Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services and Transport, added: “Active travel forms an important part of the Council’s approach to reducing carbon emissions following the climate emergency we declared in 2019.

“The bikes are simple to use, and their modest tariffs compare favourably with the cost of travelling by car, bus or train. They can help improve the health and wellbeing of visitors and residents, so we hope to see them back on the streets soon.”