A plan to get more people on bicycles for short journeys is coming closer to fruition, with the search now on for a sponsor of the national scheme.
If all goes as planned, the pilot will be launched in stages in the Jurong Lake District, Marina Bay, Tampines and Pasir Ris from the fourth quarter of this year.
Consultants appointed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) have begun to approach corporations for the sponsorship, which would run into the millions.
Meanwhile, the Sentosa Development Corporation also called a tender last Friday for a bicycle-sharing scheme on the resort island (see sidebar).
The idea of bicycle sharing is quickly gaining traction, with private players also jostling for a piece of the pie. First in was oBike, a Chinese company that has launched a scheme in the western and northern parts of Singapore, The Straits Times reported last Saturday.
The LTA aims to have about 2,330 bikes spread over more than 210 docking stations.
Asked if the presence of private operators like oBike would affect the viability of the national scheme or its attractiveness to sponsors, LTA said it does not stop other bicycle-share operators interested in starting schemes here, and noted some of the operators have submitted bids to run the national scheme.
"We welcome different business models and different types of systems to see what works," an LTA spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday.
The consultants for LTA are a consortium comprising global sports marketing agency Lagardere Sports and The X Collective, an SMRT Commercial subsidiary.
Mr Adrian Staiti, Lagardere's executive vice-president for global partnerships, said potentially over a million trips could be made by bicycle each day in the target areas, constituting first-and-last-mile trips to and from MRT stations, and non-MRT trips within these areas.
The scheme would allow users to rent and return a bicycle for short trips at various terminals throughout a network.
New York City's bicycle-share scheme, Citi Bike, started in 2013 with a five-year sponsorship of US$41 million (S$58 million) by title sponsor Citigroup, which has its brand displayed on about 10,000 bikes spread across 600 stations.
"In many other cities, what we find is that when you introduce bike share, it has accelerated the take-up of cycling in those cities," the LTA spokesman said.
Mr Staiti said the consultants were focused on finding and launching a main sponsor by the third quarter of the year.
The sponsor would have naming rights to the scheme, and its brand on assets, including bicycles, kiosks, docking stations, cycling tracks and other print and digital media.
There will be two other tiers of sponsorships - founding partners and official sponsors - depending on the financial commitment.
Discussions have been "very positive" so far, despite the gloomy economic outlook for this year, said Mr Staiti. He added that "brands still have to market themselves, they still have to get their message out and continue with their corporate social responsibility programmes", whatever the economic climate.
Asked if the sponsor had to be a Singapore company, Mr Staiti said they were open to options as long as it was a "respectable brand".
Singapore Polytechnic marketing and retail lecturer Amos Tan said while it was too early to tell if the scheme would succeed, it could become something Singaporeans used daily if it were executed well.
"It is just like the tuk-tuks of Thailand, they could be an icon of Singapore," said Mr Tan, and noted this would be attractive to companies.