Other than its Roman walls, its gothic minster and its railway heritage, there’s something else York is known for: it’s “cycle city”. Voted as the fifth-most cycle-friendly city in Britain, it’s no wonder there’s a huge range of cycle lanes and biking routes dotted around the place.
What is mysterious is why it took so long for an electrical bike rental service to hit York. Electric bikes started cropping up around the city in April 2021, and they’ve been a hit ever since. We decided to try one on for size.
Which is the best app to rent a bike in York?
At the time of writing, the Tier bike rental app has the monopoly in York. The company also operates an electric scooter network around the city, which licensed drivers can use simply by downloading the Tier app. Unlike private scooters, it’s legal to use a rental electric scooter in York as part of the government’s trial scheme.
How the Tier bike rental scheme works
First things first – if you want to make use of Tier’s e-bikes and scooters, you’ll need a valid driving licence. If you only want the bikes, it’s less restrictive. The age limit for e-bikes is 16, while the e-scooters is 18, plus a valid driving licence. Tier’s ethos is safety-first. That includes penalties for drink-driving, just as there would be in a car. Messing about is ill-advised.
How to sign up to Tier in York
To get started, you’ll need to download the Tier app. It’s a very friendly user interface which takes you through sign-up intuitively. Fill out your personal details and have your driving licence to hand. It’ll ask you to scan this before taking you through to payment setup.
You can hook the app up to your payment card, and then once it’s all approved, you’re ready to go. Just scan the QR code to start. The app features a map screen outlining all the locations of e-scooters and e-bikes in York, relative to where you are. Make sure you turn on location services.
Where are the Tier bikes located in York?
The Tier electric bikes and scooters cover everywhere within York’s outer ring road, from the city centre out to locations such as Upper Poppleton, Haxby, Dringhouses and Heslington. There are some restricted zones and some speed-restricted zones:
Red zones (no riding allowed):
- Coney Street
- Palmer Street
- Museum Street
- York Art Gallery
- Frederic Street
- York Minster
Again, these are for safety reasons, stopping or slowing down rides in built-up areas. Tier in York is most useful for those who want to cruise around the city centre and to spots such as the University.
The zones are colour-coded on the map. Anything in off-white is safe to ride at full speed. Yellow signifies a speed-restricted zone, and red a no-riding zone. These areas will show up on the map once you start your ride.
How much does it cost to rent a Tier bike in York?
Electric bike rental in York is charged by the minute. You’ll pay £1 to unlock the bike initially, and then 20 pence for every minute travelled. You’ll see all of this broken down in an itemised invoice sent to your sign-up email address after your journey.
Of course, there are additional charges if you break the rules. Traffic offences, illegal parking or destruction of the bikes can cost up to four figures, so ride responsibly. You must return the bike to a designated parking bay once you’re done. This can cost up to 50€ (£43) if you don’t, so it’s not worth the risk.
Can I reserve a Tier electric bike in York?
You can reserve a Tier electric bike in York. Locate the bike symbol on your map and click on the one you want to reserve. You can reserve it for free for up to 10 minutes. During this time, it won’t unlock for any other users.
Riding the Tier electric bike
Now we’ve signed up, it’s time for the fun part – riding your electric bike.
How many Tier electric bikes are there in York?
At the time of writing, there are 50 Tier electric bikes scattered around York. They’re far outnumbered by the e-scooters, of which there are 250, so you’ll need to consult the map. There are 40 designated parking bays around York, so you won’t have trouble finding one.
Getting set up on the bike
To get started, open the Tier app and scan the QR code on the bike. You can even lodge your mobile phone in the holder and wirelessly charge as you cruise. The app will give you some safety instructions, including restricted zones and how to pay attention on the roads. It’ll even give you the option to wear a helmet, which is locked inside the bike.
There is also a lock attached to a thick wire, which you’ll need to pull out of the bike once you’ve activated it. You can stow this in a compartment on the back wheel, though in our experience, it tended to dangle off a little. There’s a simple twist mechanism to adjust the seat, plus a basket with a 15kg weight limit.
Next, kick off the kickstand and you’re away.
Riding the bike
There are all manner of beeps and bleeps as you set off, making for a futuristic but friendly experience. There’s also a dashboard so you can see what speed you’re going, right next to where you can store your mobile phone.
Riding is generally a smooth experience. As soon as you start to pedal, you’ll feel the electric throttle kick in and soon you’re only doing half the work. Stop pedalling at your peril, though – it will carry you, but you’ll need to put in a little effort, too.
By law, e-bikes cannot exceed 15.5MPH with electronic assistance. We managed to get the bike up to a very commendable 17MPH with some pedalling, though we suspect the speedometer was flattering us. In short, it’s the perfect speed for those who don’t want to go full throttle on a pushbike, but also want some extra pace when commuting. The brakes are very responsive and it’s an all-round comfortable ride. Though it feels heavy when mounting, this soon glides away as the electric kicks in.
Not only is Tier environmentally friendly; it’s also very user friendly. The app presents clear instructions on how to stay safe, and how to mount/dismount to return the bike safely.
Head to your personal dashboard and you can save money with the in-app wallet. Make use of the Tier pass or buy rides for a friend. There are also regular promotions on the Tier mailing list, so it’s worth signing up.
Better still, find a starred bike or scooter and you’ll qualify for five free minutes on future rides. (You’ll need to go 500m from the starting point to get these.) The app also offers a “beginner mode” if you want to accelerate more smoothly and travel at reduced speeds.
Getting around York isn’t always easy, particularly during busy tourist seasons. Tier couldn’t have arrived a moment too soon, and it’s wonderful to have this eco-friendly alternative to cruise around the city.
Design-wise, it’s not infallible – the locking wire can come loose and it feels a little uneasy and heavy to mount the bike. But once you’re away, you feel completely safe, almost as if the app is talking to you.
Setting up the app is a little cumbersome with the scanning of your driver’s licence, but it’s worth it for the safety. Once you are set up, it really is a case of scan the QR code and go. Dropping off couldn’t be simpler either – just hit ‘stop ride’ and you’ll be charged immediately.
At the time of writing, the e-bikes in York are far outnumbered by scooters, which explains why we don’t see many in use day-to-day. But in our opinion, they’re far more fun than the scooters, at almost double the speed with a smoother, more secure ride.
Our verdict? Cheap, reliable and fun – we just wish there were more e-bikes in York. And if you enjoy the experience of electric bike riding, and want a handy commuting bike, try one of our best folding electric bikes.
Find out more about hiring an e-bike in York here.