Is green hype on bike-sharing true?

Mr Gabriel Moreau is right to question the service that bike-sharing firms provide to the community (What community service do these firms provide?; Nov 29).

Ofo, Mobike and oBike use a dockless system and can afford to charge low fees due to abundant funding from investors. The firms also hold huge amounts of money in deposits collected from users.

This is why the business is so lucrative in Singapore.

However, its most valuable asset could be the data of its clients, especially in the context of the companies' partnership with their investors Alibaba (Ofo), Tencent (Mobike) and Grishin Robotics (oBike).

The authorities should ensure that such data is not shared on a commercial basis with these companies for their strategic business models.

Many people are supportive of bike-sharing because of the suggestion that it reduces road congestion, improves air quality and cuts carbon dioxide emissions.

However, such claims are not substantiated with robust evidence. They also rest on the invalid assumption that all bike-sharing journeys are substitutes for car journeys.

Given Singapore's lack of quality cycling infrastructure, and pedestrians, motorists and motorcyclists competing with cyclists for limited space, bicycles are hardly a good choice for going car-lite.

Although there are efforts to rein in inconsiderate bike-sharing cyclists, much depends on good will and is neither binding nor enforceable by law.

Such behaviour and negative perceptions will not abate unless the Government conducts effective public engagement.

Certainly, more in-depth impact and process evaluations are needed to measure the success of this scheme.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2017, with the headline 'Is green hype on bike-sharing true?'. Print Edition | Subscribe