Saturday, February 03, 2018

Urgent solutions needed to rental bike problems


Dear Friends,
Straits Times Forum printed an edited version of this letter. Click here.
Dear Editor,
In urban planning “last mile” refers to the difficult problem of getting commuters from a transportation hub eg MRT station to their final destination eg home. “First mile” would be from starting location to the hub.
The Last Mile Connectivity is the “Holy Grail” that town planners, including  ours, aspire towards.
Bike sharing schemes fronted by 5 companies  namely GBikes, Mobike, oBike, ofo and  SG Bike,  - which have more than 30,000 bikes between them, could be a positive disruptive influence  by improving public transport accessibility leading to a more “car-lite” Singapore.
However, complaints are heard more than accolades.Why?
These complaints include how our  reputation of our “city within a garden”  has been tarnished by these haphazardly parked bikes found in even odd places eg road dividers or in flower beds.
Bikes also pose dangers by blocking walkways and emergency exits .
Andrew Delios from NUS Business School had alluded to  economic concepts of “negative externalities”  and “free-riding”. ( Bike-sharing: Time to crack down on free-riding? Straits Times 18 Oct 2017)
“Negative externalities” are hidden costs not borne by company owners but passed to others, namely Singapore tax payers, who not only bears with the eyesore where previously was pristine environment, he  now has to skirt around or move aside fallen bikes. It could be said that our red passport is diminishing in value.
“Free riding” concept is when rich owners ( eg Ofo‘s young billionaire CEO Dai Wei ) are taking advantage of a public good (eg parking space) without paying for it. Some countries insist docking stations be built at costs of millions.
I propose the following:
  1. Users who do not park at geo-fenced areas lose their deposits. Losing credits ( Mobike) is not deterrent enough.“No deposit” (Ofo) promotion not be allowed.
     2.“ Free first 15 minute” promotions (Mobike) not be allowed.  Bikes marooned on road dividers could be by riders who had run out of “free” time.
      3. Total number of bikes from each company be limited in each region and rebalancing of bikes assiduously done when they “bunch” in places.
4. Enough  geo-fenced lots  eg HDB void decks , outside condos and around private estates apart from transport hubs. Bike companies bear full cost of works.
Singapore is already very accessible and to walk few hundred metres is actually healthy.
To expect full door to hub connectivity is a tad too much.
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

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