More rules needed to manage growth of bike sharing

I am a frequent user of bike-sharing services in Singapore as well as in China and Taiwan.

I am concerned about the current and potential problems that could arise from this service.

We have seen the exponential growth of bike sharing, and the indiscriminate parking, abuse and theft of the bikes.

In China, the authorities have confiscated or impounded thousands of illegally parked bicycles. There have also been reports of underage riders dying after being involved in road accidents.

With the cheap rates offered for renting the bikes, it is hard to believe that the bike-sharing service makes economic sense, even as key players in the business fight to increase market share and introduce more bicycles.

A concerted effort is needed in Singapore to regulate and resolve some of these problems.

First, the bicycle population has to be regulated.

Operators who wish to increase their fleet have to justify the increase, for instance, providing proof of utilisation rates.

Second, there is uneven utilisation rates of the bicycles because of timing and location. Operators need to show that efforts are made to redistribute bicycles and match supply to demand.

Third, as Singapore is the first outside China to adopt dockless bike sharing, there is no real incentive for users to park at designated areas.

There is also the herd instinct to follow others who illegally park bicycles. I doubt the credit system for good behaviour can be effectively managed.

Lastly, and most importantly, there should be a minimum age for bicycle users.

Children tend to be oblivious to traffic rules. I have seen young riders dashing across amber traffic lights.

Let us not wait for a major accident before we take action.

Bike sharing is a great concept for cities. But we urgently have to manage the problems if we are to grow this. I hope we can avoid the issues some Chinese cities are facing.

Tong Kin Kiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'More rules needed to manage growth of bike sharing'. Print Edition | Subscribe