Shared bikes used 30min a day: Study

Rental bicycles parked indiscriminately near Yishun MRT station.
Rental bicycles parked indiscriminately near Yishun MRT station.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Analysis of data from major firm shows higher usage in evenings

Dockless shared bicycles have become a common sight around Singapore but, according to a study, each one is used for only half an hour a day on average.

Scientists from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart) analysed the GPS data of about 10,000 shared bikes from one of the largest companies over nine days in April and May last year. The bike-share operator was not named.

Smart's paper, published in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation last month, comes as the Government announced this week that bike-share operators will be licensed and their fleet sizes controlled to tackle the growing problem of indiscriminate parking.

The research paper supported regulating the shared-bike population, noting that public space is limited and cannot support the continued expansion of bike-share firms, which appear to be competing for market share.

There are currently about 100,000 shared bicycles here supplied by six operators.

Dr Zhang Xiaohu, a post-doctoral associate with Smart's Future Urban Mobility Interdisciplinary Research Group and one of the researchers, said the "oversupply of bikes may hurt the operators' economic sustainability and cause urban and visual pollution".

The study found that each bike was used on average to make between 0.62 and 1.64 trips a day.

  • 100,000

  • Number of shared bicycles here supplied by six firms.

Asked whether their low usage meant there was an oversupply, Dr Zhang said this was hard to say, as the concept of dockless bike-sharing is still in its early days. He said the current distribution of bicycles is "not optimal".

The paper also found that shared bicycles were used more in the evenings and operators would do well to redistribute them when and where they are most in demand.

Transport expert Tham Chen Munn likewise felt that the current usage rate was low but said this may change with better infrastructure. The high idle time is likely due to the bikes being used only for first-and last-mile trips, and for 10 or 15 minutes each time, he added.

"As more towns have better cycling infrastructure, there is a possibility people will ride for longer distances. The 150km Round Island Route will also be an impetus for more usage," said Mr Tham.

There are now nine Housing Board towns with cycling path networks and the Government plans to have similar infrastructure for six more towns in the next five years. The eventual goal is to build cycle paths in all 26 HDB towns by 2030, contributing to an islandwide network of 700km.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2018, with the headline 'Shared bikes used 30min a day: Study'. Print Edition | Subscribe