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Bike-sharing services

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

Founder of Hong Kong’s first bike-sharing service Gobee said a total of nine bikes had been found damaged since the app launched on Wednesday

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 April, 2017, 8:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 April, 2017, 3:52pm

Three bicycles belonging to a newly launched bike-sharing service were found thrown into a river in Sha Tin on Saturday.

Police said a man found the bikes in Shing Mun River at about 2.30pm, while a fourth was left damaged in nearby grass. The case has been classified as criminal damage.

The bikes belonged to start-up Gobee.bike, which launched on Wednesday.

Gobee is Hong Kong’s first bike-sharing service, allowing users to rent more than 400 smart bikes in the New Territories by scanning a QR code with their mobile phones.

Founder of Gobee bike Raphael Cohen said nine bikes, including the three, had been found damaged since the app launched.

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

Cohen said the other bikes had various parts, such as the handles, brakes or lights removed.

“They are trying to make [the bikes] unsafe to use,” Cohen said. “It feels pretty sad. I thought Hong Kong was a very safe city.”

The firm’s founder admitted the app had encountered some security issues, but insisted they had been fixed within 24 hours after the launch.

A security loophole was first pointed out by a smartphone app programmer on his blog, gaplotech.com. The programmer said the app would transfer users’ credit card details, such as card numbers, security codes and expiry dates to its server without encryption, which exposed users to hacking risks.

Cohen said the company had discovered problems similar to what the blogger had described and that some 450 accounts were affected.

Beijing to crack down on shared bikes littering pavements

But he said no information had been stolen and the company would “take full responsibility if anything happens”. He later said the company had deleted all credit card information from its server.

Cohen assured that the updated version of the app would not store any credit card information from users.

“We can guarantee that everything is fully secured now,” he said.

Unlike existing bike rental services in Hong Kong, Gobee bike users do not have to pick up and drop their bicycles at designated locations.

A ride on a Gobee bike will cost HK$5 per half hour. Currently, other bike rentals in Tai Po for leisure purposes cost HK$40 per day.