Interview: Adam Ali, Cardiff’s NextBike Angel

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TheSprout got a chance to speak to one of those people that quietly keeps Cardiff running: here’s Adam Ali, a Cardiff Uni student who also works part time as a NextBike Angel.

This means Adam patrols the city centre returning the hire bikes to docking stations where they are needed. If you don’t know about the NextBike hire scheme, you can check it out here on TheSprout:

Hiring a NextBike

What does the job of “NextBike Angel” involve?

My job is to patrol the Cardiff area (primarily the city centre), performing checks on stations and bikes, ensuring they’re all in perfect order. If anything is wrong with a bike, I either make an adjustment to correct it, or flag it for repair so the NextBike Cardiff operator, Pedal Power, can send someone to pick it up and take it away to be fixed. The NextBike scheme is not dockless, and all bikes have to be returned to a station after rental; another part of my job is to issue fines to those who don’t do this, and to take the bikes to the nearest station.

[DOCKLESS: Whilst our bike hire scheme is based around “docks” or “stations”, some cities have dockless bikeshare, where you can essentially leave the bike anywhere in a pre-defined area (eg. the city centre), and the next person has to find it using GPS. This doesn’t always go that well- in Manchester for example, Mobike had to pull out of the city because of vandalism to their dockless bikes. Whilst Cardiff’s NextBikes do have to be returned to a station, they can just be left nearby, as opposed to some other schemes such as Valencia’s Valenbisi scheme where the bikes MUST be docked to be returned.]

Being an Angel is one of the many parts of the Cardiff NextBike team. There are also mechanics, who fix the bikes, as well as the re-distributors who take broken bikes away for repair, and bring them back once they’re fixed. They also top up stations with bikes when they’re running low.

NextBikes docked outside the Court.

What made you decide to look into becoming a NextBike Angel?

I was looking on the Cardiff Volunteering page back in 2017, and saw an advertisement to volunteer to try out a new bike rental scheme. It piqued my interest so I signed up. At first there were only 5 stations – now there are 73! I soon became a NextBike ambassador for Cardiff, and have represented the company at all of their public events. As the scheme grew, they started to advertise a couple of roles as Angels. I applied, and have been a Nextbike Angel for 7 months now.

What do you study, and how do you fit this unusual job around your studies?

I’m a third-year Physics and Astronomy student at Cardiff University. The job is very accommodating, as I’m able to choose my own hours. I can plan my hours very easily around my lectures, making the job very compatible with being a student.

A ride past the museum.

What’s the worst thing people do when they’re finished using a bike?

The worst thing people can do when returning a bike is to leave it in the middle of the pavement! Bikes do not have to be docked to be returned, which means there are a few cases where people dump the bikes in inconvenient places around stations, or in the middle of a pedestrian path. This sometimes can be very annoying for pedestrians, who have to weave around it.

Do you ever have to fish a bike out of a river?

No! I haven’t personally, put on the rare occasion that a bike does make it’s way into the Taff, Pedal Power has good friends at the Red Cross water team, as well as local boating crews, who help us retrieve them.

Well, there you have it! Now you know how the bikes get to where they need to be for Cardiff’s harried commuters to get where they need to be on time, and of course for those pleasurable loops of the Bay. NextBike currently costs £1 to use for 30 minutes on a casual basis, but they also have an offer on: for just £50 you get an annual membership, which means the first 30 minutes ride are free for 12 months. Click here to head to their website and read more about the Spring offer.

[TheSprout is a council-funded project and does not accept advertising or advertorial money from any sponsor or corporation- we’re just big fans of NextBike and thought this would be a useful thing to share with the young people of Cardiff.]

Need more info about Cardiff transport? Check out this page from our Info section.

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TheSprout : News and Information for Young People in Cardiff