Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 4 News List

OBike brings traffic chaos: city officials

PARKING MAYHEM:City and county officials in several regions have expressed their doubts about the effects of the flexible bicycle rental service on public spaces

By Chang Tsun-wei, Kuo An-chia and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Competition between mobile bicycle rental services Ofo, Mobike and Bluegogo has led to crowding in places like this sidewalk near a bus stop in Beijing, pictured on March 23. Mobile bicycle rental companies have introduced more than 2.2 million rental bikes, with prices starting at US$0.07 per half-hour in a race to attract more users.

Photo: Andy Wong, AP

Local governments that have been conducting trial runs of the Singapore-based oBike bicycle rental system have questioned the viability of the company’s operational model, with Taipei even putting the trial on hold until the implementation of autonomous regulations in the city.

Unlike the YouBike system in Taipei and New Taipei City, oBike does not rely on bicycle stations; its bicycles can be rented and returned anywhere in the region using the oBike smartphone application.

Each bike is outfitted with a GPS chip, allowing the company to find and retrieve misplaced bikes.

The oBike system started trial operations in the Taipei area in April, making 216 bikes available, Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Taipei City Councilor Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) said.

The company expects to increase the number of bicycles to 1,000 across New Taipei City and Taipei by next month and 20,000 bikes across both municipalities by the end of the year, Chen said.

He said that given the operational model of the company, adding 20,000 bikes to the 10,000 YouBikes already in the region might cause traffic problems.

The city has no means to fine the company should parking the bikes cause problems, Chen said, but parking could harm the rights of city residents, as they could fill parking spaces for other bicycles and scooters.

Liu Chia-you (劉嘉佑), a Taipei transportation official, said the city should come up with regulations regarding the parking of oBikes, or they could end up being haphazardly parked anywhere, as evidenced in Shanghai and Beijing.

He said a “credit” system could be set up, with credits deducted from users’ accounts for incorrect parking and users denied service if they accrue too many negative points.

Regulations on bike sharing are expected to be reviewed by the Taipei City Council in the latter half of the year, Liu said, but there might be a window between the implementation of the regulations and oBike being allowed to operate in Taipei.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taitung County Councilor Wu Hsiu-hua (吳秀華) said on Thursday that the oBike system lacked proper management and was affecting traffic in the trial areas in the county.

Since trials began on April 22, oBikes being parked in random spots, on sidewalks and even at people’s homes instead of in designated areas has presented problems, Wu said, adding that several restaurants even put the bikes in front of their establishment so customers could cycle home after drinking.

The Taitung County Government will renegotiate the contract with oBike after the trial period has ended, county official Yu Ming-hsun (余明勳) said.

OBike is to start regular operations in Taipei after it filed documents with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the city government’s Consumer Protection Office on Wednesday last week.

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