Going the distance to pick up damaged bicycles

Mr Zhivko Girginov, with a bike found in the Farrer Park area yesterday. He focuses on damaged bikes which may pose a threat to the safety of users.
Mr Zhivko Girginov, with a bike found in the Farrer Park area yesterday. He focuses on damaged bikes which may pose a threat to the safety of users.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Bulgarian helps clear streets of bikes, moving them to places for easier collection by operators

Since shared bicycles began rolling out here earlier this year, both operators and the authorities have taken steps to ensure bikes are not abused or parked indiscriminately .

One user has taken it upon himself to help them clear the streets of damaged bikes.

Mr Zhivko Girginov, a Bulgarian who has lived here for nine years, said he didn't want to just complain about bicycles cluttering up public spaces, so he decided to do something about it.

Since September, he has conducted three "raids", using a rented lorry to collect damaged two-wheelers and deposit them in a public space where the bike operators can pick them up later. The 42-year-old piano teacher receives no payment for his "work", and said that he does so out of a sense of civic duty.

As there are already policies in place to regulate indiscriminately parked bikes, Mr Girginov focuses on damaged bikes which he said could pose a threat to the safety of users.

When The Straits Times accompanied him on one of his rounds yesterday, Mr Girginov picked up seven damaged bikes within an hour, all a short drive away from his home in Dorset Road.

Damage seen on the bikes collected included broken chains and broken pedals.

One bike, found near the Farrer Park MRT station, appeared to have been hit by a vehicle and its front wheel was bent beyond repair.

Mr Girginov said that it was obvious some of the bikes were vandalised but, in many cases, it was simply wear-and-tear from months of regular use and exposure to the elements.

He believes that the difficulty of reporting damaged bicycles - which requires users to take a photo of the bike and report details such as its exact location - may be discouraging more users from reporting them.

The cost of a day's rental of a lorry, including fuel, is about $200, but Mr Girginov said the challenges he faces are more about things like having to find somewhere to park his lorry while he goes to collect the broken bikes, and sometimes having to drag them several hundred metres to where he parked.

One oBike can easily weigh more than 10kg.

"Lifting the bikes on to the lorry can be very tiring," he said, adding that he has taken to wearing gloves to protect his hands on his rounds.

Two of the larger bike-sharing firms here said they supported Mr Girginov.

Mr Tim Phang, oBike Singapore general manager, said the firm has "always been open to working closely with relevant authorities or organisations to continually improve bike-sharing".

He added that oBike's trial engagement with Mr Girginov's efforts - which he said "spreads the message of civic mindedness and responsibility"- is part of this vision.

Mobike Singapore country manager Sharon Meng said the firm was in touch with Mr Girginov to "build an even stronger bike-sharing environment" here.

Though an online meeting group created by Mr Girginov has about 50 members, he has so far conducted his rounds single-handedly, only once getting the help of a volunteer for a couple of hours.

He hopes more will join him in the future.

"I could use an extra pair of eyes to help me," he said.

VIDEO

https://youtu.be/ApRvVwEgjWA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2017, with the headline 'Going the distance to pick up damaged bicycles'. Print Edition | Subscribe