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Bike-sharing services

Bike-sharing operator Gobee.bike offering free rides in Hong Kong amid parking woes

Users will earn credits for leaving bikes at designated areas, which may help ease problem of haphazard parking in the city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 7:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 8:12am

Hong Kong’s largest bicycle-sharing operator Gobee.bike will offer riding credits for cyclists under a new scheme amid a growing problem of haphazard parking in the city.

Gobee.bike customers can earn 30 minutes of free riding credits when they park certain bicycles at designated areas.

The scheme follows a growing number of complaints from residents that bicycles had been left randomly in car parks and occupied public spaces for extensive periods. Some bicycles even ended up not being used for a long time as they were parked at places such as the city’s airport, remote villages and country parks.

Gobee.bike’s founder Raphael Cohen said the incentive would help improve the mobility of bicycles which are not frequently used, and the company’s overall business performance.

“The user response has been very good. Quite [a number of] bikes are being moved to areas with higher demand,” he said.

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Cohen added that the idea was aimed at mobilising riders to relocate its light-green bikes to more ideal locations.

The operator will choose about 400 bikes that have not been used for a while or are parked in less desirable spots, and mark them with purple pins in its mobile application. If riders take those bicycles to a hot spot – indicated by a pink circle on the app – they can earn a free ride.

Cohen said the 400 bicycles, which make up about 5 to 10 per cent of the total number of bikes deployed in the city, had been mobilised for the scheme, and more than 30 public parking spaces were being used as the company’s designated parking areas.

But Sha Tin district councillor Billy Chan Shiu-yeung doubted that the scheme would be effective in solving illegal parking.

Government has role to play as bike-sharing trend takes off

“People would still prefer the convenience of dropping off bikes anywhere they want ... the incentive is not big enough to make a difference,” he said.

The parking issue has been a headache for bike-sharing operators in the city since such services were first rolled out in April. Residents filed complaints of social nuisance after some riders dropped off the bikes at undesignated areas, without facing any consequences.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has remained tolerant on the issue as it seeks to grow the environmentally friendly industry, vowing to provide more public parking spots.

The city’s second largest bike-sharing operator HobaBike has also adopted an awards and punishments system to ensure its bicycles are being parked properly.

Riders who do so will get reward points for free rides, while parking illegally will result in a deduction of their reward points or deposit, according to its founder Joseph Sung.

“If there is irregular parking, we will send out people to inspect and message the user to rectify the parking issues within 60 minutes,” he said.