Big sponsor wanted for bike-sharing scheme

A man securing his bicycle on the bicycle rack at the Sengkang MRT station.
A man securing his bicycle on the bicycle rack at the Sengkang MRT station. PHOTO: ST FILE

LTA hoping for $1m a year to defray costs in return for naming rights, exposure

Major corporations have been approached in the past months to sponsor a pilot bicycle-sharing scheme here, The Sunday Times has learnt.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is hoping to get sponsorship of over $1 million a year from a company to help defray the cost of the scheme, which will allow users to rent and return a bicycle for short trips at various terminals throughout a network.

Local banks were among the companies approached, The Sunday Times understands.

The bike-sharing pilot was initially planned to be rolled out by the end of last year, but was delayed. It is meant to complement the public transport system by connecting cyclists to public transport nodes.

The Ministry of Transport said last month that the pilot will be launched in the Jurong Lake District next year, and could be expanded elsewhere. It first issued a request for information in 2014 for proposals and views from bike-sharing experts on such a system.

The bike-sharing pilot was initially planned to be rolled out by the end of last year, but was delayed. It is meant to complement the public transport system by connecting cyclists to public transport nodes.

The banks declined to comment when contacted.

However, a banking source said LTA had earlier this year pitched to them several locations for the scheme: the Jurong Lake District, the Marina Bay area, Tampines and Pasir Ris.

"This will start from 2017 onwards. If the pilot succeeds, then we were told it would be expanded to other towns," said the source, adding that sponsors could be given title sponsorship, naming rights on bicycles and docking stations, and advertising opportunities.

Another source said while the plans were at a preliminary stage, LTA wanted to get feedback and possibly "gauge the responses".

Both sources said the financial commitment LTA sought was over $1 million a year. The cost of the scheme has not been reported.

In response to queries, an LTA spokesman said on Friday that it has been "carefully studying different bike sponsorship and operating models" and gathering feedback from stakeholders.

"With the study completing, tenders will be called in the coming months, with the aim of piloting bike-sharing services in areas like the Jurong Lake District next year," said the LTA spokesman.

Getting sponsors for bike-sharing schemes is not unusual. London's scheme is sponsored by Santander UK bank while Citibank is the title sponsor for Citi Bike, New York City's bike-sharing scheme.

Singapore Management University transport economist Terence Fan said sponsors would help defray the costs of setting up and maintaining such a system, which can be substantial.

"When you are talking about bicycle-sharing, you are talking about a level of service catering to the individual citizen.

"We are no longer looking at buses full of people... The kind of resources that would be needed to serve the same number of people is much higher," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'Big sponsor wanted for bike-sharing scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe