Govt intervention needed for bike-sharing to succeed

Keeping bicycles in designated areas not only reduces obstruction to traffic, but also prevents theft and vandalism as closed-circuit televisions can be installed to identify perpetrators of such offences.
Keeping bicycles in designated areas not only reduces obstruction to traffic, but also prevents theft and vandalism as closed-circuit televisions can be installed to identify perpetrators of such offences.PHOTO: ST FILE

I am sure that reporter Yuen Sin's disillusionment with bike-sharing services such as oBike and ofo resonated with many Singaporeans (My love-hate relationship with innovations and sharing economy; Jan 6).

While the high take-up rates early on suggested popular demand for such services, poor maintenance and regulatory constraints have caused them to become less popular over time.

It is clear that the private sector alone is unable to implement the regulatory measures or infrastructure required to properly maintain bike-sharing services.

For bike-sharing to succeed in Singapore, the state must step in to provide regulatory and infrastructural support.

All present bike-sharing systems in Singapore are dockless. Successful bike-sharing schemes tend to operate on a docking system, where bicycles are stored at designated stations.

Keeping bicycles in designated areas not only reduces obstruction to traffic, but also prevents theft and vandalism as closed-circuit televisions can be installed to identify perpetrators of such offences.

State intervention is required for this as urban planning approval is required to install docking stations.

The Government also has the ability to construct large-scale island-wide infrastructure projects more effectively than the private sector, using information about urban traffic flows and transport networks to decide the best locations for docking stations.

The Government's Smart Nation initiative could also play a significant role in reducing bicycle damage.

Users could be required to provide some form of identification in order to use a bicycle, allowing operators to monitor those using their bicycles.

This would allow for incidents of bicycle theft or damage to be traced back to those responsible, deterring wilful vandalism.

The most successful bike-sharing systems, such as those in Paris and London, operate with at least a degree of government intervention.

The Singapore Government must similarly provide infrastructural and regulatory support if bike-sharing is to succeed here.

Ng Qi Siang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2019, with the headline 'Govt intervention needed for bike-sharing to succeed'. Print Edition | Subscribe