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Bike-sharing services

All must get on board for rent-a-bike scheme to work

Hong Kong is ideally compact for bike sharing, but singularly lacking in the facilities, regulation and the culture needed to make it work

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 3:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 April, 2017, 3:00am

The bicycle continues its revival as everyday transport, pushing back against the motor car in its traffic-choked urban strongholds from China to the West. Hong Kong remains a challenge to the trend because its roads are mostly not bicycle friendly and drivers are not used to sharing the road with cyclists. The introduction of an app designed to allow users to pick up and drop off bikes around the city has, understandably, aroused some scepticism that it will take-off beyond bike tracks in the New Territories. To add indignity to the doubts, just three days after its launch, three of its bicycles were found thrown into Shing Mun River in Sha Tin on Saturday, among nine bikes found damaged with parts removed. There is no accounting for some acts of vandalism. But the new service could be feeling more welcome. Hopefully, police investigations will get to the bottom of it.

Newly launched Hong Kong bike-sharing app has bumpy start with damaged rides and security fears

The tracks in Sha Tin, Tai Po and Ma On Shan, where the first 400 bicycles have been distributed, belong to a network established with recreation in mind. Otherwise, even in the New Territories, it is not clear that safe road conditions are in place.

The new service, introduced by start-up Gobee.bike, follows the success of mainland counterparts such as Ofo, which operates in 50 cities. Cyclists can rent a solar-powered bike for HK$5 a half-hour, compared with all-day leisure rentals of HK$40, by scanning a QR code, after logging into a mobile application, registering their credit card and paying a deposit of HK$399. An interactive map will locate the nearest available bicycle. Founder Raphael Cohen, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur, says the city has huge potential for the business model, and expects the number of bikes to multiply rapidly.

Bike-sharing service offering rental anywhere through mobile app rides into Hong Kong

Given the environmental and health benefits of the revival of bicycle transport elsewhere, government planners should consider keeping the potential demand for bike lanes in mind, particularly in the design of new towns. If the service takes off, it could stimulate demand for more provision for bicycles in older areas. Ironically, the city is ideally compact for bike sharing, but singularly lacking in the facilities, regulation and the culture needed to make it work.