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LTA awards 1-year licence to China’s bike-sharing giant Hello to operate 1,000 bicycles in Singapore

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has awarded a one-year licence to Chinese bike-sharing giant Hello Inc, allowing it to run a fleet of up to 1,000 bicycles in Singapore.
Bicycles from various bike-sharing schemes in China. AFP
Bicycles from various bike-sharing schemes in China. AFP

SINGAPORE — The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has awarded a one-year licence to Chinese bike-sharing giant Hello Inc, allowing it to run a fleet of up to 1,000 bicycles in Singapore.

The firm’s Singapore operation HelloRide was awarded a "sandbox" licence and will have to apply for a full licence after a year to operate with a larger fleet of bicycles, LTA said in a statement on Friday (July 1).

“When evaluating applications, LTA will consider factors such as the applicant’s track record, and ability to manage indiscriminate parking and ensure healthy fleet utilisation,” LTA said.

The entry makes Shanghai-based Hello the third bike-sharing operator in Singapore after Anywheel and SG Bike and brings the total offering here to 36,000 bikes.

The move also comes after a sharp decline in the bike-sharing industry from its peak in 2018 when there were six companies — Anywheel, GBikes, Mobike, oBike, Ofo, Share Bike SG and SG Bike — offering more than 200,000 shared bicycles at the time.

The startup, previously known as HelloBike, is backed by Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Group.

In response to TODAY's queries, HelloRide said that it will be deploying 960 bicycles, mainly at East Coast Park, Marina Bay Sands, National Stadium, parks along the Kallang River and a few districts including Little India, Bugis and Boon Keng.

The bike-sharing firm does not collect user deposits. Users will have to top up an e-wallet on the mobile application using a credit or debit card and fares will be deducted from the e-wallet.

A single-trip fee costs S$1 for the first 30 minutes and 50 cents for every subsequent 10 minutes.

HelloRide added that users who do not scan the QR code at LTA's designated bicycle parking locations will be charged a S$5 fee, which will go towards arranging logistic services to take the bicycle back to a proper parking spot.

Since bike-sharing first entered the market here in 2017, the Government has had to make regulatory moves to curb the then-burgeoning industry along with complaints of indiscriminate parking.

In March that year, it began designating yellow rectangular zones in public areas where these shared bicycles must be parked.

The next year, Parliament passed changes to the Parking Places Act to tackle indiscriminate parking of shared bicycles. Among the new measures were a licensing regime for bike-sharing operators and geo-fencing technology that requires users to scan a Quick Response (QR) code at designated parking lots as proof of proper parking before ending their trips.

Soon after, oBike abruptly announced that it was pulling out of Singapore citing “difficulties” in meeting the new requirements, leaving scores of irate customers scrambling to recover their deposits with the firm.

When the licensing regime kicked in, some operators were allowed much smaller fleet sizes than they had sought and the total number of shared bicycles in Singapore was slashed by about half. 

More exits followed and the problematic departure of Ofo, which laid off employees without compensation after owing at least S$700,000 to creditors, only tarnished the beleaguered industry further.

LTA said on Friday that since the introduction of the QR parking system and the ban of users who repeatedly park ungraciously, more than 90 per cent of users now end their trips at designated spots.

“Since 2019, LTA’s regulatory requirements have helped to support the sustainable growth of the bicycle-sharing landscape,” it added.

AnyWheel and SG Bike told TODAY in 2020 they were optimistic while seeing a quiet resurgence of bike-sharing here despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, transport analysts said that the bike-sharing model has never been profitable globally and do not expect such a model to work in Singapore either. 

Related topics

bike-sharing Hello Inc HelloRide LTA licence China

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