Australia slaps rules on Singapore-based oBike after shared bikes clutter cities

oBikes being abandoned in a tree and in the Yarra River. PHOTOS: TWITTER/@brython14, @janetbackstage, @SarahJMTaylor

Australian councils are introducing strict new rules on oBike after the bicycles from the Singapore-based shared bicycle operator were seen cluttering cities in the south-eastern state of Victoria.

Pictures and videos of the yellow bikes being dumped indiscriminately in Australia, in trees, on roofs and even in the Yarra River, were posted on social media.

oBike, which started operations in Singapore in January, set up shop in Australia in August after months of piloting, Australian media reported.

According to its Australian website, it is the first dockless bicycle-sharing system in Australia. Chinese rival ofo launched operations in Adelaide earlier this month. There are other bike-sharing systems in the country, albeit with docking stations.

Thirty oBikes were crushed last week after they were impounded by Melbourne City Council for cluttering footpaths and obstructing pedestrians, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Tuesday.

In response, the councils of Melbourne, Yarra and Port Phillip signed a formal agreement with oBike to improve safety and amenity, ABC reported.

The new rules dictate that oBikes cannot block footpaths, must be parked upright and must be removed from dangerous locations within two hours.

The issue of abandoned or haphazardly parked bicycles had arisen even during the company's trials, with Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle reportedly threatening to ban the bikes in a report by ABC in August.

Head of marketing for oBike Australia Chethan Rangaswamy told ABC then that a team of six to eight people scoured Melbourne to address the issue.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times on Wednesday (Oct 18), oBike said bike-sharing is still in its infancy stage in Australia.

"As such, many cyclists are still not fully aware of the correct behaviour required to develop a socially gracious and courteous community of riders," it added in a statement. "This leads to issues such as the indiscriminate parking and vandalism. We are committed to engaging the public for ongoing education on cycling etiquette.

Since our launch, we have had a few who abused our bikes. But for every abuse case, there had been many more who exhibited positive riding behaviour. We urge all users to treat our bikes as if they would their own."

There have been similar problems in Singapore, with shared bicycles found abandoned in remote areas, left in canals and thrown from Housing Board blocks.

In August, The Straits Times reported that the Land Transport Authority impounded 70 shared bicycles in July, bringing the total number impounded from January this year to 278.

Of these, 212 were from oBike, 65 from China-based firm Mobike and one from Chinese firm ofo.

The companies had introduced measures in an attempt to combat bad user behaviour - these include GPS tracking and QR code-enabled smart locks.

LTA said earlier this month that it had signed an agreement with bicycle-sharing firms here, in conjunction with the National Parks Board and all 16 town councils, to encourage the responsible use of shared bikes in public spaces.

Under the agreement, the five operators - GBikes, Mobike, oBike, ofo and SG Bike - must adopt geo-fencing technology by the end of the year.

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