Public bikes thrive in the Lion City

Updated 2017-06-14 10:06:36 Global Times

Chinese bike-sharing companies look toward the Singaporean market

A shared bikes addict, surnamed Xu, recently traveled to Singapore and surprisingly found familiar orange and yellow bikes in the Lion City. Living in Beijing, he uses bike-sharing apps - Mobike and ofo - almost every day.

"But with the apps I use in China, I found out, disappointedly, that I couldn't scan and ride it [the bike] away there [in Singapore], as they have different app versions in the Apple Store overseas," he said.

Though they offer different versions of apps to download, bike-sharing services providers in Singapore are encountering the same issues dealt with by their Chinese counterparts in China, such as vandalism and securing designated bike parking areas.

"When you walk in the city center, you can see Mobike's orange bikes were in some non-parking areas," Xu told the Global Times on Monday.

Ofo, the Beijing-based bike-sharing operator, organizes promotional events that invite local bike users. Incentivized by the chance of winning a one-year free ride reward and vouchers worth between S (.45) to S, users are encouraged to report bike vandalism, according to ofo's posts on Facebook.

Bike race to Singaporean market

Similar to how Chinese dockless bike-sharing start-ups became popularized on university campuses in Beijing, the phenomenon has also become prevalent on university campuses in Singapore, such as the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University - a sign of the younger generation becoming more willing to embrace new things and new modes of transport.

Ofo has put more than a thousand of its typical yellow bikes into the Singaporean market, a city-state with a population of over 5.5 million. Mobike, ofo's major rival in China, also entered the Singaporean market in March. According to a Mobike statement sent to the Global Times earlier in March, the company initially targeted high-demand areas including Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations and the populated residential areas like Pasir Ris and Tampines, areas where workers and students travel between their homes and nearby subway or bus stations.

Over 90 percent of shared bikes are provided by oBike, the first homegrown stationless smart bike-sharing company in Singapore, a Chinese Weibo user, Dangui, who has been living in Singapore for over five years, told the Global Times on Monday.

"Fewer ofo bikes could be seen on the street, and Mobike's bikes have only been seen on the Internet," he said.

He noted that it is very convenient to use shared bikes in the proximity of subway stations and residential areas and that oBike charges S.5 per 15 minutes whereas ofo charges S. "They offer many free rides now in the purpose of promotion," Dangui added.

People usually ride shared bikes to MRT stations in the Garden City. During the weekend, many enjoy riding them in parks, he said.

"I think ofo's yellow bike is pretty, but I could not find many on its app," he remarked.

Singapore-based oBike sees the benefits of being local and having a local team on the ground, Elgin Ee, general manager of oBike, told the Global Times on Monday. "For example, we recently launched our lighter and more ergonomic Smart Generation bicycles following feedback from the public," he said. Ee further noted that oBike is now focusing on the Singaporean market by working closely with the local authorities to mark out more designated public bike-parking areas.

New trend

Angela Low, a student at the NUS, told the Global Times on Monday that she is a regular user of oBike and Mobike and the idea of bike sharing is "pretty new" in Singapore. So far, it is inexpensive because there are many promotional deals that provide people with a certain amount of free rides every day.

"I actually prefer Mobikes because they look nicer and are always equipped with baskets. They're also very light and easy to ride," she said.

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