Penalty system to promote better bike sharing behaviour

A bicycle belonging to oBike, one of three bike-sharing companies in Singapore, parked outside an 11th-storey Housing Board flat in Yishun. There have been incidents of such two-wheelers being taken home, vandalised or not parked at proper locations
A bicycle belonging to oBike, one of three bike-sharing companies in Singapore, parked outside an 11th-storey Housing Board flat in Yishun. There have been incidents of such two-wheelers being taken home, vandalised or not parked at proper locations after use.PHOTO: ST READER

Local start-up oBike is looking to work with the authorities to tackle the growing problems of shared bicycles, such as vandalism and indiscriminate parking.

The firm will work together with the Tampines Town Council for a start to expand the areas in the estate where its bicycles can be parked, and will have the town's volunteer cycling wardens encourage responsible behaviour.

As a promotion, oBike has also committed to giving residents in Tampines a month of free usage. The details of this initiative are being worked out.

During its official launch yesterday, oBike also announced a penalty system that could result in users paying from 10 to 100 times more to use the bikes if they flout the rules.

The firm, which launched 1,000 bicycles around the island two months ago, plans to ramp this number up to "tens of thousands" in the coming months, said its general manager Elgin Ee.

One of three bike-sharing companies here, alongside rivals ofo and MoBike, oBike offers users the convenience of renting a bicycle by using a mobile app, without having to return it at a fixed docking location. Still, the bicycles are supposed to be parked at legal and legitimate locations after use.

But reports of these two-wheelers being taken home, vandalised or left thoughtlessly about have spread on social media.

  • 700

    Number of housing blocks in Tampines.

  • 10-20

    Bicycle parking racks in each block.

Mr Ee estimates that "1 to 2 per cent" of its bicycles have been found parked indiscriminately. Besides relying on other users to report the incidents, he said that he has eight maintenance staff whose duties include going around the island to recover the bicycles.

He said that the credits scoring system was recently enhanced to include demerit points for actions such as forgetting to lock the bike, or parking in non-designated areas.

All users who sign up start with 100 points, and earn more for riding more often. Bike rentals are priced at 50 cents for 15 minutes.

If a user's score falls to between 60 and 79, the price rises to $5 for the same duration. It jumps to $50 for those with less than 60 points.

Mr Ee said oBike is in discussions to work with other town councils too. Tampines - Singapore's first cycling town - was chosen for its strong advocacy for safe riding.

Tampines Town Council general manager Chan Wee Lee said that each of the 700 housing blocks there have between 10 and 20 bicycle parking racks.

Mr Chan said it was "too early to tell" whether more space is required, as residents may give up their own bicycles with the new bike-sharing scheme.

"There's plenty of space within the estate or in void decks where we can demarcate some areas... The (oBike) bicycles are portable, so if we need the space for community functions, we can always relocate them physically," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'Penalty system to promote better bike sharing behaviour'. Print Edition | Subscribe