Brakes applied - shared bike fleets to plunge

Bike-sharing operator Anywheel has been recalling some of its green bicycles to meet LTA's ceiling of 1,000 shared bicycles that the company has received approval to operate from the end of next month under the new licensing scheme.
Bike-sharing operator Anywheel has been recalling some of its green bicycles to meet LTA's ceiling of 1,000 shared bicycles that the company has received approval to operate from the end of next month under the new licensing scheme.ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS CHONG

New LTA scheme cuts shared bike numbers from over 100,000 now to 55,500 next month

The number of shared bicycles in Singapore will plunge when a new licensing regime kicks in at the end of next month.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced yesterday that six companies will be allowed to have a combined 55,500 bikes under the new regime.

There are currently more than 100,000 shared bikes here from the various operators. A study last year found that each bike was used on average to make only between 0.62 and 1.64 trips a day.

"This is much lower than the utilisation rates in other cities such as New York City and Chicago, where each shared bicycle is used about three to six times a day," said the LTA, adding that about half the bikes here are not actively used.

The new regime is aimed at addressing the rampant indiscriminate parking of bikes resulting from the aggressive expansion of bike-sharing fleets, the LTA added.

Chinese firms Mobike and ofo as well as Singapore-based SG Bike have been granted full licences.

Mobike and ofo have each received approval to operate a fleet of 25,000 bicycles while SG Bike can have up to 3,000 two-wheelers.

"While we are pleased to be awarded the full bike-sharing licence in Singapore, we are disappointed that the awarded fleet size is not able to facilitate Singapore's high demand for bike sharing," said ofo's general manager Isabelle Neo.

The firm, which had applied to operate 80,000 bicycles, declined to say how many bikes it has now, but noted that excess bikes will be stored in a warehouse and used to replace damaged ones.

Firms with more than the allowed number of bikes will be given a "reasonable timeline" to remove them from public spaces, said the LTA, adding that their licences could be suspended if they fail to do so.

Three other operators - Anywheel, GrabCycle and Qiqi Zhixiang - have been granted a "sandbox" licence each. Aimed at firms without a "sufficiently long track record" in operating a bike-sharing service, the licence lets them operate a smaller fleet.

Anywheel and GrabCycle will each be allowed to operate 1,000 bicycles and Qiqi Zhixiang up to 500.

Anywheel also declined to say how many bikes it has now, but confirmed it has been recalling them to comply with regulations.

The LTA will monitor the performances of the three "sandbox" firms before determining whether to grant them full licences.

GBikes, another firm that applied, will not be granted a licence as it did not satisfy the assessment criteria.

Licences will be granted following the payment of relevant fees.

Earlier this year, both oBike and ShareBikeSG ceased operations, citing difficulty in complying with the new regime.

Operators that do not comply with the conditions face penalties, including a fine of up to $100,000 for each offence, or the suspension or termination of their licences.

An unlicensed operator can be fined up to $10,000 and jailed up to six months, with a further fine of $500 for each day that it continues to operate after conviction.

Fleet sizes will be reviewed regularly to support demand, and licensed operators can apply to expand their fleets twice a year, in January and July. New operators that intend to provide bike-sharing or personal mobility device-sharing services can apply for a licence in January next year.

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said firms which previously relied on dumping bikes on the streets to grow market share will have to shift their mode of operation under the new regime.

"They will instead have to focus on profitability and sustainability," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2018, with the headline 'Brakes applied - shared bike fleets to plunge'. Print Edition | Subscribe