Hong Kong bike-sharing market accelerates with new players and business models

Cleantech Solutions partners with operators to allow users a one-stop rental network, while HobaBike hopes to develop valuable consumer lifestyle data

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 June, 2017, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 June, 2017, 10:47pm

Competition is heating up in Hong Kong’s bike-sharing industry as more operators are riding into the nascent market with fresh ideas and business models.

Local firm Cleantech Solutions plans to develop a platform allowing users to rent bikes from multiple providers, while HobaBike, which launched on Sunday, aims to analyse user data and develop other value-added services.

In April, Gobee.bike, the city’s first such service, got off to a bumpy start with complaints of randomly parked bikes and calls for a regulatory system.

Hong Kong officials give green light to bike-sharing firms

But new players are undeterred. Cleantech chief operating officer Parkson Yip Tak-yin sees a bike network like that of controversial car-hailing service Uber, but without the regulation issues.

He envisions individual owners, traditional operators or bigger bike-sharing operators would be able to list their bicycles on a rental app after installing a unified lock and tracking system.

All registered bikes could be located via an integrated map and unlocked with the app.

Individual and small bike rental vendors are outside of the sharing economy
Parkson Yip Tak-yin, Cleantech COO

“Individual and small bike rental vendors are outside the sharing economy,” he said. By inviting more players to the market, customers could benefit from a wider range of bike choices.

Cleantech’s aim is to provide an aggregate service for the user, he added, as current frequent users in more mature markets such as mainland China must register with multiple apps and pay different deposits to locate nearby bikes. The same situation could happen in Hong Kong, he said.

Yip noted his company had teamed up with Xiao Sun Bike, a new bike-sharing service started by four local cycling enthusiasts, and could work with Xiaoming Bike, a leading mainland operator with three million active users.

The possible collaboration would let Cleantech’s users rent bikes from both service brands in the city and across the border without having to download each operator’s separate apps.

Yip also expected mainland tourists, who are more accustomed to a bike-sharing culture, to become a substantial customer base for Hong Kong providers.

But he admitted that visitors from the mainland who sought to ride bicycles in the city might initially encounter problems due to unfamiliarity with local traffic laws and regulations.

“We will definitely keep a close eye on that,” he added.

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

Xiao Sun Bike founder Bryan Au Chi-tong said joining such a network would give it an “easier start” when it rolls out services later this year, with a strong user base already built by other providers.

Meanwhile, HobaBike founder Joseph Sung aspires to build an online platform focusing on healthy lifestyle services.

The former Ford engineer, who worked in Europe for 16 years, said HobaBike would employ a computing network to analyse user data from bikes.

The data could then be used to develop related services or lifestyle products in the future.

He said he hoped to “use bike-sharing as an example to attract more investments to build a bigger platform”.