Baicycle - a different spin on bike-sharing

Dockless service, to debut by year end, will include e-bikes and e-scooters by next year

Backed by Chinese electronics firm Xiaomi, bike-sharing service Baicycle is expected to make its debut here by the end of the year. It will be the sixth bike-share firm in Singapore. PHOTO: TERENCE TAN

Another dockless bike-sharing service - this time backed by Chinese electronics firm Xiaomi - is expected to make its debut by the end of the year in what is becoming an increasingly crowded market.

Baicycle will be the sixth operator - following ofo, MoBike, oBike, SG Bike and GBikes - to provide Singaporeans with two-wheelers which can be rented from and returned to any parking spot using a mobile app.

The name is a play on the Chinese word "bai", meaning white - the colour of its bicycles.

Baicycle, available in China and Japan, will be brought to Singapore by Xiaobai Technology, a local company started by Mr Terence Tan, who also runs Eco Biz International, a decade-old Singapore firm specialising in mobility devices.

But with at least 30,000 shared bicycles already in the market, it may be an uphill ride to gain a market share, said observers.

Asked about this, Mr Tan said its business model is different as Baicycle will offer shared electric bicycles and e-scooters, on top of regular bikes. "Because of the hot weather and ageing population, we want more products to serve customers," he told The Straits Times.

Mr Tan, 58, said it will roll out 2,000 conventional bicycles when the service is launched. Next year, Mr Tan targets to have a combined 10,000 e-bikes and e-scooters available to riders, and he said their exact numbers will depend on demand from users.

He added that the firm has 200 regular bicycles here already, which it is using to test out its geo-fencing technology. The technology creates a virtual boundary that sends out an alert when a bike enters or leaves an area and is meant to end indiscriminate parking.

It was announced last week that the five other bike-sharing firms have signed an agreement with the authorities to use similar technology by the end of this year.

Mr Tan declined to reveal how Baicycle's e-bikes or e-scooters, which are battery-powered, will be charged in between rentals, or how much rentals will cost.

But Chinese business technology website TMTpost quoted Baicycle co-founder He Xiangming in January as saying that the service will work with quick-charging points and battery replacement centres set up at convenience stores.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng questions if the bike-sharing market is sustainable.

Dr Lee said bike-sharing aims to tackle the first-and last-mile commute but this is not a major issue in Singapore because of public transport and covered walkways in Housing Board towns, which 80 per cent of the population reside in. Asked about Baicycle, he said: "It sounds very attractive but whether this can translate into a positive user experience, we will need to observe."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline Baicycle - a different spin on bike-sharing. Subscribe