Vandalism, thefts force Gobee.bike hire service to pull out of France

Gobee.bike said 'more than a thousand bikes' had been stolen and almost 3,400 damaged nationwide.
Gobee.bike said 'more than a thousand bikes' had been stolen and almost 3,400 damaged nationwide. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - People wanting to rent a bike in France have one option less after the Gobee.bike hire service said over the weekend it was closing following a welter of thefts and vandalism.

The Hong Kong-headquartered service said: "Over the months of December and January, the mass destruction of our fleet has become the new entertainment of underaged individuals." It had rolled out 2,000 two-wheelers in Paris alone and had some 150,000 users across France.

The company said "more than a thousand bikes" had been stolen and almost 3,400 damaged nationwide.

Gobee.bike had already thrown in the towel in the northern cities of Lille and Reims as well as Belgian capital Brussels for the same reason.

"It was sad and disappointing to realise that a few individuals could ruin such a beautiful and promising project. We had to come to the conclusion that it could not be viable and there was no other choice for us than shutting down, nationwide," Gobee.bike said.

Gobee.bike and other rivals such as Ofo and Obike had hoped to bag market share after Paris authorities in January threatened sanctions against the new operator of the city's better known Velib system, over a chaotic rollout under a new contractor.

The grey bikes are a familiar sight in the French capital, popular with tourists and commuters alike a decade after the scheme was launched.

 

But a redesign and partial switchover to electric versions, plus a change of management from French giant JCDecaux to Franco-Spanish upstart Smovengo proved messy.

After weeks of disruption, just 64 docking stations were operational by mid-January out of 1,460 supposed to be up and running by April. Many riders complained the mobile app regularly crashed while calls to customer service went unanswered.