Singapore is in quite the uproar right now.
I mean, the last time it got so big was when McDonald’s removed the curry sauce.
It was a truly trying 4 months indeed. #priorities Another time Singapore was in a huge uproar was when our late PM Lee passed away.
But that was understandable; he was an iconic man.
Anyway now, Singapore is in an uproar again. Over bike-sharing operator oBike leaving the scene.
But okay lah, to be fair it’s not just about oBike leaving. It’s more about oBike leaving and not refunding users their deposit.
And then being completely silent about the whole affair. They haven’t even cleared their bicycles, by the way.
So what actually led up to this whole mess? Well, here’s a timeline of everything that’s led up to this moment.
January 2017, oBike Began Operations in Singapore
In January last year, oBike rolled out 1,000 bicycles on the streets of Singapore and entrenched itself as the first bike-sharing operator on our shores.
This number grew to 14,000 bicycles and over a million active users very quickly (despite the $49 deposit).
Soon After, Mobike & ofo Jumped Into S’pore Market
Ofo is a Beijing bike-sharing company. As of 2017, they operate over 10 million bicycles in 250 cities in 20 countries, and have over 62.7 million monthly active users.
They launched in Singapore in February 2017, just a month after oBike.
Mobike is also a Beijing bike-share company. It is the largest in the world right now in term of the number of bicycles operated, and serves over 200 cities globally.
They launched in Singapore in March 2017. Singapore is the company’s first overseas market.
As of July 2017, there were over 30,000 bicycles deployed by all the bike-sharing operators collectively.
And then, the trouble starts.
With over 30,000 bicycles that were essentially free for hire, some users turned this great initiative into a major public nuisance.
I don’t understand why it is so hard for some people to just behave. Everything also want to take advantage.
Users were parking the bicycles everywhere and any whole how, obstructing pedestrian paths.
Bikes were flung around this way and that, becoming not just a nuisance but a major eyesore.
Oh yes, and did you hear about the teenager that got arrested for throwing an Ofo bike out of an HDB. From the 30th floor, btw.
What the heck.
An Agreement Between Many Parties Signed in Aug 2017
Okay so with all the complaints and the very obvious eye-sores and inconsiderate behaviour of Singaporeans, the authorities decided something needed to be done about it.
And so, an agreement was forged between the town councils, LTA, National Parks Board and bike-share operators to increase the safety of pedestrians and reduce nuisance behaviour from bike-sharing.
Under this agreement, bike-share operators had to employ geofencing technology. This technology essentially creates a virtual boundary which will send an alert once a bike enters or leaves an area.
Unfortunately, It Didn’t Work
I hope y’all know that parking bikes any and everywhere is the same as littering. It dirties the area, causes obstructions and is a major eyesore.
We have a reputation as a clean and green city to uphold, ya know.
So what happens next? The transport ministry had to step in to try and solve this problem.
Singaporeans – creating our own headaches since forever.
Parliament Passes New Rules in Mar 2018
All in an effort to curb this pesky problem of indiscriminate parking. As a collective society, we all really got to learn to be more considerate.
Ya feel me, jellybean?
Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min blamed the bike-sharing companies for neglecting the issue of errant parking. He said that they were too focused on trying to grab market share and grew their fleet of bicycles too fast.
Which led to this problem.
Under these new rules, bike-share operators have to be licensed by LTA which will regulate fleet sizes.
LTA will also set industry standards including geofencing technology, and define the time set for operators to remove illegally parked bicycles. Operators will also have to pay LTA a license fee.
Failure to comply with these rules will result in penalties such as a reduction in fleet size, fines up to 100K for each instance of non-compliance, and cancellation or suspension of their LTA license.
Users will also be temporarily barred from bike-sharing if caught illegally parking more than 3 times a year.
Bike-sharing operators had to register for a license or cease operations by 7 July 2018.
GrabCycle Partners With oBike in Mar 2018
Regardless of the new bike-licensing scheme, things seemed to be going well and the bike-sharing economy seems to be booming.
It looks so good Grab decided to create GrabCycle, partnering up with oBike (and some other smaller companies) to provide bike-sharing services through their app.
Bike-sharing companies are complaining about the cost of the new licensing, but all said they’re willing to comply with the new regulations.
And Here We Are in June with oBike Saying Bye
And all of a sudden in June, oBike announced that it is gonna cease operations in Singapore, saying that it was difficult to comply with LTA’s new regulations.
People were very angry and tried to get their refunds back, which led to the #ReturnMyDeposit movement. But oBike has been silent and their offices have already been vacated.
If you’ve paid the deposit of $49 to oBike, you’re advised to approach the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) for assistance.
Bye Bye GrabCycle For Now Too
So since oBike’s gone, GrabCycle found itself unable to provide an adequate supply of bicycles for their users.
Well, okay, not exactly. They also have ‘Anywheel‘ – a very new bike-sharing operator that’s homegrown. But the fleet is so small and with oBike now out of the picture, they don’t have enough bicycles for its users.
And so they’ve decided not to accept any new sign-ups. At least for now. Existing subscriptions will be waived and refunded as well.
So, Will I Get My oBike Refund?
Man…I don’t know.
It’s very likely you wouldn’t, though.
Cuz even though oBike is blaming LTA’s new rules for leaving the market, the truth is, they’re broke af.
At the end of 2017, oBike brought in S$912,668 in revenue but recorded some S$4.25 million in losses. It also owes “several months of fees” to Ruder Finn, a local PR agency.
And they also didn’t pay the fees to their logistics partner, which rounds up indiscriminately-parked oBike bicycles. The partner then suspended their services to oBike this year.
It seems like they are having some serious cash flow issues. So getting your deposit refunded seems to be unlikely right now.
And Now, We Look On In The Future
There you go. That’s the timeline of bike-sharing in Singapore. What the future holds for this industry is quite uncertain.
We just gotta wait and see.
Mobikes and ofo still seem to be working. And there’s also a rather new operator in town – SGBike.
So let’s try to be considerate and responsible bicycle-share users and hopefully the industry will thrive.
If not, people will say that Singaporeans don’t deserve good things. #JustSaying
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