New technologies set to prevent cyclists from ending trips if they park rental bikes indiscriminately

New technologies set to prevent cyclists from ending trips if they park rental bikes indiscriminately
The authorities also announced that all town councils, the National Parks Board (NParks) as well as the LTA had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the five bicycle-sharing operators in Singapore to encourage the responsible use of dockless bicycles. Photo: LTA Facebook
Published: 4:08 PM, October 5, 2017
Updated: 12:12 AM, October 6, 2017

SINGAPORE – In a major move that could remove the scourge and messiness of indiscriminately parked rental bicycles, all five bicycle sharing operators will need to adopt geo-fencing technologies to ensure users park within designated areas by the end of the year.

The requirement is part of an agreement between the operators and the Land Transport Authority, National Parks Board and 16 town councils to encourage responsible operation of bicycle-sharing services. The LTA announced the Memorandum of Understanding on Thursday (Oct 5) and told TODAY it would “consider stronger regulatory measures” if it does not see more responsible operations. It will continue to take strict enforcement action against indiscriminate parking, said a spokesperson.

Bike-sharing began this year and has taken off rapidly, with obike, Ofo, Mobike, Gbikes and SG Bike entering the market. But shared bicycles were soon spotted in various corners of the island, prompting calls for more to be done to reduce inconvenience to pedestrians and others.

Geo-fencing technologies will enable operators to know if their bicycles have been parked within designated zones. LTA currently requires operators to remove shared bicycles that are indiscriminately parked within half a day.

Operators will be required to remove faulty bicycles within a day, and provide public liability insurance for users.

They have agreed to share anonymised trip data with the LTA, to “facilitate the planning of active mobility infrastructure”. Information of users will be released to enforcement authorities to facilitate investigation and enforcement work in accident cases that result in injury, death or property damage, the LTA said in a statement.

The memorandum of understanding applies to other shared active mobility devices such as power-assisted bicycles.

On their part, the authorities will provide more yellow boxes for bicycle parking in public housing estates, parks, park connectors and at MRT stations and bus interchanges. More than 4,000 boxes with space for 20,000 bicycles will be provided by the end of the year.

Operators – three of whom first revealed an agreement was in the works on current affairs programme Talking Point last month – welcomed the move on Thursday.

SG Bike already uses Geostation technology to manage indiscriminate parking, and users are alerted through beeping noises and app notifications if they do not park in designated spaces.

Mobike’s Singapore country manager Sharon Meng welcomed industry benchmarks set by the agreement and said it would be rolling out its geo-fencing solution in November. Its bikes are GPS-enabled.

oBike co-founder and chief marketing officer Edward Chen welcomed the clarity provided by the requirements. The firm currently uses heat maps to track riding patterns and mark out high-demand areas, to better allocate bicycles. This results in fewer bikes left unattended, he said.

Ofo users who park indiscriminately will get an app notification and the operator said it would provide details on penalties closer to the end of the year. It replaced its mandatory bike deposit and introduced a credit system that rewards good behaviour and penalises bad behaviour, and is likely to develop the programme further, said a spokesperson.

Although they now have some form of insurance coverage in place, such as third-party insurance, industry players said public liability insurance could impose an additional burden. They declined to elaborate further.