A Singaporean start-up has launched a station-less bike sharing scheme in Bangkok, bidding to bring this Chinese craze to Thailand and alleviate the capital's notorious traffic despite challenges.
Bangkok is not a bike-friendly city. Its narrow streets are inadequate for bike parking and few cyclists can be seen there. Nevertheless, Singapore's oBike began distributing a fleet of orange hire bikes around Bangkok train stations earlier this month.
They are of a type that is now common in China. Unlike conventional bike hire schemes, users of these bikes can pick them up and drop them off anywhere, with GPS tracking their movement. Riders can find the bikes, unlock and lock them again using a mobile app and scanning a QR code on the frame.
Payment is done via credit card. To use the service for the first time, one has to pay a deposit of 899 baht (26 U.S. dollars) and it then costs about 10 baht (0.3 dollars) per 15 minutes.
Ric Yeo of oBike said the company has put bikes along Bangkok's main commercial streets and around Chulalongkorn University and Lumpini Park. It will monitor their usage based on data from the app and consider increasing the fleet.
Despite Bangkok's poor conditions for cycling, Yeo said he thinks oBike still has a chance as public transport is generally crowded, the roads congested and there is demand for transport over short distances of one or two kilometers. He added that hire bikes are a greener solution for inner city movement.
Jerry Liu, a Chinese living in Bangkok, told Xinhua he was excited to finally try station-less bike-sharing, which his friends in China have used a lot.
"I tried it and I like it though the weather is hot here," Liu said. "I think they should deploy more bicycles around the city while talking with the Thai government to make it safer for people to ride as the bicycle lanes are usually occupied by motorcycles."
"If we don't roll out the service, we don't have any data and it is difficult to judge whether bike sharing is feasible here," Yeo said, explaining that his company is optimistic without expecting a boom like in China and Singapore.