Hong Kong officials give green light to bike-sharing firms
While government puts brakes on car-hailing services, bicycle-sharing business gains speed with two new operators due to open soon
Hong Kong may have put the brakes on car-hailing services, but the government is backing the fast-growing bicycle-sharing business in the city, with two new operators planning to open shop soon.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung told lawmakers on Wednesday that his bureau supported the expansion of bicycle-rental services, and vowed to provide more public parking spots for them.
However, concerns have been raised over illegal parking after the city’s first bike-sharing mobile application, Gobee.bike, launched in April. Cheung’s bureau has received 30 complaints over the issue, including free public parking spaces being used for commercial purpose and bicycles occupying public spaces for too long.
“If necessary, we do not preclude considering further regulating bicycle rental services,” Cheung said. But he stressed the regulatory regime would be pragmatic and fair, and would not violate “the principle of fair competition”.
Cheung was decisive recently in ordering Uber to follow existing transport rules and change its business model to operate legally in the city.
He said he had learned about the complaints and the bureau◘had urged Gobee.bike to tackle the parking issue in a meeting this month, though the operator’s follow-up actions so far “have not been satisfactory”.
Cheung attributed the newcomer’s parking problems to a shortage of public spots and said the current number was not enough to accommodate newly commissioned bicycles. An additional 1,000 parking spaces would be added by next year to the existing 57,000 spots, he added.
However, Gobee.bike founder Raphael Cohen said there was no need to regulate the industry, and urged the government to provide more bicycle parking spaces to meet strong demand.
The city’s second bike-sharing operator HobaBike is expected to launch services next Monday with a focus on family users. Unlike Gobee.bike,HobaBike users will have to park in designated spaces instead of dropping them off anywhere they want.
The first batch of 100 bikes – in pink, green and red – will be available for hire in Tseung Kwan O for HK$3 for half an hour.
Local cycling enthusiasts are raising money through a crowd funding drive to launch a third operator.