Bike-sharing firms face parking woes

Their bikes not allowed at public racks in one estate; elsewhere, they are seen blocking way

East Coast-Fengshan Town Council placed removal notices on bike-share bicycles calling for the immediate removal of the rental two-wheelers and threatening confiscation.
East Coast-Fengshan Town Council placed removal notices on bike-share bicycles calling for the immediate removal of the rental two-wheelers and threatening confiscation.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

As bike-sharing takes off here, one town council has taken issue with commercial bicycles parked at its public racks.

The East Coast-Fengshan Town Council has placed removal notices on bike-share bicycles - belonging to local firm oBike and others - parked at racks around the Bedok Town Centre. The notice says the racks are not to be used for "rental business" and that the bikes are to be removed immediately or risk confiscation.

The Straits Times found 12 bicycles belonging to the three bike-share firms operating here - oBike, Mobike and ofo - at racks near the Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre on Tuesday. Two of the bikes had removal notices on them. Another notice was found in the basket of another private bike.

In response to queries, the town council said it had been "monitoring the situation" since Thursday last week.

"These bicycle parking racks are constructed to prevent indiscriminate parking of bicycles at our common areas and are not for commercial activity," said a spokesman, adding that oBike had not informed it of plans to use the space.

She said that it had contacted oBike to remove the bicycles but had not yet received a response.

ST understands that Mobike and ofo were not contacted by the East Coast-Fengshan Town Council.

The Sembawang Town Council also said it had received feedback from residents about shared bicycles obstructing "important access points" such as dry risers, adding that it had contacted the bike-share firms about the issue.

These bikes were moved to other areas for the "safety and convenience" of residents, it said.

When contacted, oBike general manager Elgin Ee said he was aware of the removal request by the East Coast-Fengshan Town Council, adding that the firm was "working closely" with town councils to ensure its bicycles do not become a nuisance.

"We have a team of people going around to remove improperly parked bikes," he said, adding that oBike was looking at ways to encourage proper parking among users.

Bike-share parking is also an issue in China - the home of Mobike and ofo - where the business is booming. Earlier this month, thousands of illegally parked bicycles were impounded in Shanghai.

On Thursday afternoon, ST found four oBikes parked on the road at an HDB carpark in Woodlands Street 41. Residents said they had been there since at least 8am.

Mr Francis Chu, co-founder of cycling enthusiast group Love Cycling SG, said that town councils, bike-share providers and riders should cooperate to ensure bikes are properly parked.

Mr Chu suggested that messaging apps could be used by residents to inform firms about improperly parked bicycles, which would allow them to respond more quickly.

The Land Transport Authority said it has encouraged the bike-sharing firms to remind users to avoid parking their bikes indiscriminately and it has ongoing plans to expand bike parking facilities for all cyclists.

"We are monitoring the situation closely to assess if further measures need to be taken."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Bike-sharing firms face parking woes'. Subscribe