The Singaporean Bike Sharing Scene: O(no)BIKE?

SINGAPORE- If you’ve been leaving your rental bikes haphazardly on the sidewalk, you might want to keep reading! Now being considered an offense by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), indiscriminate parking comes with consequences. Offenders will be billed continuously or even face a collective ban from the service providers. All operators offering dockless shared bikes, personal mobility devices (PMDs) and power-assisted bicycles are also subject to a reduction in their bike capacity or the revoking of their license under the new regime. 

Legislation: the gory details 
    The application window for operators was opened on May 8th, just in the last week. Operators will have until July 7th to submit their forms to the LTA in order to remain in full operation. Once approved, the new legislation dictates that operators will have to adhere to standards of maintenance of the bikes and parking of the bikes by customers. LTA reserves the right to check on the operators to ensure that all bikes are running smoothly and that parking laws are followed. 
    LTA is also now making it mandatory for operators to share user data so that stubborn customers unwilling to abide by the rules can be identified. Recurring recalcitrant users might be subject to a ban from all the operators in Singapore. If any of the licensing conditions are not optimally met, penalties range from $100,000 fine to a complete removal of the operator license. 

Indiscriminate Parking: a cause for concern 
    LTA reports that currently, there are an estimated 100,000 dockless bikes owned by six operators, but only about 50% of them are in use. There is an excess supply of bikes that aren’t being used by the public, which is the opposite of the problem when rental biking was first introduced. Since mid 2017, there have been more that 2,100 removal notices issued and about $180,000 collected in fines from the operators. 
    This has been causing problems for pedestrians whose paths are often littered with carelessly strewn bikes, but also for the economy as excess resources are being pooled in to produce more bikes that people don’t use. To combat this, LTA will now be taking realistic data from the operators to get a better sense of the demand for rental biking. Yet this approach can be a double edged sword as even though there will be fewer bikes parked indiscriminately, regular bikers might have a harder time locating bikes in the interim period. 
    However, there is a bright side to this. Operators will be allowed to grow their fleet size over time as the LTA deems fit. Moreover, proper parking will also be more rigorously enforced as riders will be required to scan QR codes at designated parking spots to end their trip. 

The Responses
    Authorities have already begun creating more parking spaces at MRT stations, bus stops, residential areas and National Parks. The operators too have started responding positively to the legislation. Benjamin Oh, the marking director of SG bike said that up to 10 percent of all bicycles end up being parked indiscriminately and that the LTA licensing requirements are a good way to address this problem. “We believe that this is a necessary step to help bike sharing grow successfully in Singapore,” he added. The head of Ofo, Christopher Hilton, and that of Mobike Sharon Meng, have released similar statements complying with LTA’s requirements and supporting data sharing. Tim Phang, the general manager of oBike Singapore supports the guidelines, but still believes that it “places a heavy burden on start-ups, which in turn means that bike sharing users will suffer.” 

Global Success Stories 
    There are several successful bike sharing systems all over the globe, some of the best ones situated in China itself. One of the best is in Hangzhou, China, where there are close to 66,500 and 78,000 bicycles scattered across approximately 2700 stations. Another successful program, Vélib, has been enforced in Paris, where there are about 20,000 bikes in circulation between over 1200 stations. Both these systems have one thing in common: proper docking stations. Although it might take time for Singapore’s system to emulate their efficiency, the LTA is definitely taking steps in the right direction. Hopefully in the years to come, the bike sharing system in Singapore will be sufficiently organized and perhaps included on a list too!

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