New entrant GBikes to share 3,000 bicycles

GBikes has been operating in Singapore since May. ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Even as other bicycle-sharing companies have been making the headlines, one firm has been quietly rolling out its two-wheelers here for almost five months.

An initiative of financial technologies solution firm FinTechSG, GBikes has been operating in Singapore since May.

"GBikes will have 3,000 bikes launched throughout Singapore by end-September," Mr Joe Chia, the chief financial officer for both FinTechSG and GBikes, told The Straits Times.

There are about 30,000 shared bikes here, from the various firms operating here.

Even as it expands, GBikes will have to abide by new guidelines governing the use of shared bicycles.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it is working together with bike-sharing firms here - as well as the National Parks Board and all 16 town councils - on guidelines for the use of shared bicycles in public spaces here.

Mr Joe Chia, chief financial officer of bike-sharing firm GBikes, which has been operating in Singapore since May.
Mr Joe Chia, chief financial officer of bike-sharing firm GBikes, which has been operating in Singapore since May. PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

"As part of this agreement, the operators will be expected to abide by a common set of operating conditions and educate their riders to park in designated zones," said an LTA spokesman.

"They will also be expected to implement measures, such as geo-fencing technology and public education initiatives to incentivise and inform their riders on safe riding and responsible parking."

Since shared bikes made their debut here earlier this year, they have been found blocking pedestrian pathways as well as the exits of private condominiums.

The two-wheelers have also been abused by users, with videos on social media showing them being thrown into canals and even from the top of Housing Board blocks.

"I can't say that (such incidents) will not happen with GBikes," said Mr Chia, but he added that the firm's bikes have features aimed at preventing such misuse.

For example, an alarm sounds should they be moved after they are locked. It is also working to implement geofencing technology to prevent irresponsible parking.

Mr Chia said Singapore is a "very good starting ground" for bike-sharing services, pointing to cycling infrastructure such as the park connector network.

However, having raised $20 million in its initial round of funding, GBikes also hopes to work with companies in Europe and the United States to introduce its bicycles as well as other technology - such as electronic payment methods - to bike-sharing providers there.

It is also considering expanding its business here by introducing shared power-assisted bicycles - otherwise known as electric bicycles or e-bikes - here.

With four other bike-sharing providers already operating here - oBike, Mobike, ofo and the recently launched SG Bike - it is difficult to say whether Singapore can support the growing number of such firms, said observers.

"I feel it's getting tougher for newcomers. Singapore is not that big," said Mr Francis Chu, co-founder of cycling enthusiast group Love Cycling SG.

In line with the Government's car-lite vision, the cycling network is expected to expand to more than 700km across the island by 2030. In addition, more facilities such as bicycle crossings and bike parking spaces are being introduced.

Mr Chu said any company entering the bike-sharing sector would have to expand quickly, to ensure its bikes are easily found by commuters, adding that Singapore is still laying the groundwork for becoming a cycling nation.

He pointed out that in China, where bike-sharing is booming, some cities have dedicated bicycle lanes "almost as wide as car lanes".

"In Singapore, we are still building the infrastructure."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2017, with the headline New entrant GBikes to share 3,000 bicycles. Subscribe