Why should residents pay for the cost of disposing oBikes?

After the recent shutdown of oBike, it was reported that town councils are looking to discard abandoned bicycles (Uncollected oBikes: Town councils looking to take action; June 28).

First, why should residents be made to pay, through their town council's service and conservancy charges, for the disposal of oBikes?

It does not make sense for residents' money to be used to pay for the mistakes of others.

The Land Transport Authority's failure to regulate the bike-sharing industry and companies in the beginning has resulted in this mess.

Had there been regulations and a banker's guarantee imposed on oBike, this mess could have been minimised. LTA could have easily forfeited the banker's guarantee as cost for disposing the abandoned bikes.

Second, our Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) should take a leaf out of the European Union's book in terms of oBike users' personal data. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation forces companies to delete users' personal information like full name, home address, location data, IP address and identifiers that track the app's usage on smartphones.

The PDPC should come up with a similar regulation to protect users' data from being abused as with the demise of oBike, millions of users' data is now in their system.

Third, the new LTA regulations do not tackle the source of the problem of bike littering - people's behaviour.

Dockless bike littering has become a social norm. Hence, it is essential to change what people do with the bikes with effective deterrents.

To LTA, such bikes are a novel tool to help ease the burden on public transport systems.

Unfortunately, certain features like inadequate infrastructure make our city a hostile place for bike-sharing schemes, especially without proper planning procedures, strict cycling laws and political friction over giving up parking spaces to dock bicycles.

So, even with the right technology, dockless schemes are prone to misuse.

If a new model of bike-sharing is going to survive, LTA will need to take note of these pitfalls and adapt to the specific needs of our city.

Protection mechanisms and penalties for vandalism and theft should be in place from day one, to help minimise misuse.

Market and education campaigns can be used to promote a bike-sharing culture, and encourage people to take a positive attitude towards these bikes.

Without serious investment in cycling infrastructure, such bike-sharing schemes are doomed to fail.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'Why should residents pay for the cost of disposing oBikes?'. Print Edition | Subscribe