Lest you’re unaware, something really big happened yesterday.
Yes, that’s right folks; I’m talking about the zit on my foot. Goddamn that was really big.
But did you know? Something else (that’s pretty big scale too) happened yesterday.
oBike, in a move nobody saw coming, announced that it was shutting down its operations in Singapore.
Indeed, the move took everyone by surprise, including Cyclist Vincent ‘Unsurprised’ Tan, who unsurprisingly prides himself on his surprising ability of not being surprised easily. Really it was a literal stunner.
But did you know that oBike didn’t really quit of its own volition? Rather, the Land Transport Authority imposed a new license which all bike-sharing operators have to attain (that happened to threaten the very fabrics of oBike’s mission statement), thereby forcing it out of the equation.
And the license in question? It’s called…
The bike-sharing license.
1. What’s the bike-sharing license all about?
In a move set to combat indiscriminate parking on inconsiderate users’ part, the LTA has asked for all existing bike-sharing operators to apply for a license to “operate in public places”. The license will allow such companies to function for up to two years.
Essentially, the license will mean these three points:
- Fleet sizes would have to be set accordingly (considering the number of indiscriminate parking cases in Singapore). Operators who are able to manage indiscriminate parking and ensure good bicycle utilisation, however, will be permitted to enlarge their fleets over time.
- Financial penalties of up to $100,000 for each example of non-compliance, suspension or revocation of license.
- Make sure their users practice common sense while parking. Users will have to “scan the unique QR code at the parking location as proof of proper parking before they can end their trip”.
Incidentally, users who do not obey the legislation and instead, insist on parking indiscriminately, would have to face continuous charges until they return the bicycles to a designated parking space.
2. Why the sudden move?
The move comes after a passage in May of the Parking Places (Amendment) Bill, a part of legislation that targets the indiscriminate parking of shared bicycles.
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But really, it’s really a matter of time before something like this happens. Just look at the number of indiscriminate parking cases for reference.
Like really, a canal?
C’mon, I’m sure there are way better places to park than that.
3. Is there a consequence if bike-sharing operators do not comply?
Let’s face it; a business, unless for charity purposes, exists for solely one reason:
To gain profits.
And while I’m clueless about a lot of things, I know for sure that such a rule (that causes further inconvenience on users’ parts) isn’t exactly going to endear users to their platforms. So why, pray tell, will they comply with such a money-negative scheme?
Well, as it turns out, there might be a penalty in place should you choose not to comply.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) implemented a 7 July deadline for bike-sharing firms to hand in applications for a license to operate in public places or cease operations.
Also, unlicensed operators may be fined up to S$10,000 and/or jailed up to six months. They may also face a fine of $500 for each day that the offence persists.
Those who submit the applications will have their applications considered and license awarded by September.
4. But hold on
It seems that it’s not the classic ‘apply and hey I’m in’ kind of thing, as it seems that LTA’s really zeroing in on the micro aspects.
“In assessing the applications, LTA will consider, amongst other factors, the ability of the operator to manage indiscriminate parking by its users, its fleet utilisation rate, and other relevant factors such as the demand for the service and availability of parking spaces,” LTA said in the release.
“Existing operators’ track record of managing indiscriminate parking will also be taken into account during LTA’s evaluation of their applications,” LTA said.
In short LTA’s just like my old English teacher in Secondary School.
Strict and unbelievably anal about the most minor (?) things.
Though unlike the LTA he actually helped me with a love letter (even if he did spend 90% of the time correcting my grammatical errors).
Here’s the video to prove my point:
Yes, it’s a sponsored video done with Young NTUC, but still, a wise man once said: “Whenever you can, promote our YouTube channel, you dumbass.”
That wise words are mouthed by none other than our fat boss, of course. But it’s really quite cool to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
5. What do the bike operators think of it?
As it is, the new rule has (already) claimed its first casualty. oBike, despite having pledged to follow through with the LTA’s new legislation, has announced its departure from the scene with a statement and apology in tow.
The other 4 local existing bike-sharing companies, Mobike, ofo, SG Bike and Anywheel, have however endeavoured to meet the deadline.
6. When is the regime due to start?
It seems that the regime will be set to kick in with the license award date in mind, as the move will be expected to commence in the fourth quarter of this year.
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. No more indiscriminate parking from September onwards, or you might just risk the notion of…
7. User penalties
While each bike company is expected to implement its own user penalties, they are also expected to share one common similarity.
Users who are found to have ‘anyhow parked’ at least three times in a calendar year will be banned for up to one year… from ALL BICYCLE-SHARING SERVICES.
And if you’re wondering how they will even know in the first place, the new regulations will require operators to share data (on users who have offended) with each other, in order to impose a collective ban on those particular harbingers.
8. Operators feel the heat
While operators like oBike have crashed out due to the “financial strain” and “collision of mission statements”, other operators have more or less adapted to the new rule, and even invented new systems to combat indiscriminate parking.
Mobike and Ofo, for example, are using a credit scoring system where penalty points will be deducted from a user’s account for indiscriminate parking. The latter is believed to also be looking at augmented reality, in a bid to help users identify whether an area is a designated parking spot.
Bike GO, anyone?
SG Bike, for another, will start charging users for an additional rental fee for each case of indiscriminate parking. However, it will grant users a “grace period” to unlock their bicycles and park it within the set areas.
9. Users speak out
So far we’ve been hearing from the law, the operators and me.
But what about the users in question?
Before we go into specifics, let’s just gloss over why they participate in indiscriminate parking in the first place.
Well unsurprisingly, it can more or less be accredited to a lack of parking spaces, and because “everyone else is doing it”.
“We know we should be parking at proper zones, but when I am in a rush or can’t see any yellow boxes nearby, I will just find a place where many bikes are huddled together and leave the bike there,” said two users, Amat and Khairul.
“Even if I know that is not a legal parking zone, if others can park there, why can’t I?”
And others echoed their sentiments.
“There are no parking zones near my working place, but I still want to use the bike to get from the MRT station to my office,” said Workshop assistant Christopher Ho, 30.
Another office worker, Ms Zhang, agreed. “You can’t expect users to not use the bicycles just because there are no proper parking places nearby,” she said.
So that begets the question. What now, after indiscriminate parking has not just been frowned upon, but legally objected to?
Rather unsurprisingly, the general consensus (at least on this site) is that they will just cease utilising the service, especially if the “big stick approach defeats the purpose of bike-sharing services”. And though I’m a neutral party, I must say that that makes a lot of sense, seeing how the point of such services is to offer users the “convenience of picking up and dropping off a bicycle as near to their homes and destinations as possible”.
“If I am indeed banned from renting the bicycle, I will probably (revert back to) using my own to get to work. More troublesome, but it’s okay,” said Mr Savaran.
10. Bike-sharing license
And with that said, my article on the new bike-sharing license comes to an end.
Admittedly, the point of the license is to discourage indiscriminate parking, which in hindsight is, for lack of a better phrase, a darn burden. And that’s no doubt a better thing, for both the society and the operators.
But you gotta wonder about the costs of such a policy, and I’m not just talking about financial strains.
Well, I guess there will be a certain percentage of the population that will still use it.
Darn bike fanatics.
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