SINGAPORE: Hastily wiping drops of sweat from my smartphone screen, I fumbled with my Mobike app at a bus stop along Changi Road, trying desperately to scan the QR code and end my trip.
I had just cycled more than 2km from my home and wanted nothing more than to get off the bike and proceed with the rest of my journey to work by bus.
But I couldn't.
Instead, I spent the next 15 minutes standing over the QR code in the stipulated parking zone with my mobile phone, scanning it from various angles in the hope that I'd see the message that meant I'd officially ended my bicycle trip.
It didn't work - the app would not recognise the code, and my mobile phone displayed a “verification failed” notice each time I tried.
I finally gave up and proceeded to board the bus.
Five minutes later, I received a notification from Mobike that I had to pay a S$5 “service fee” for parking outside a parking zone.
This added step of scanning the QR code after locking the shared bicycle is part of a new measure implemented by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which kicked in last Monday (Jan 14).
The move aims to encourage responsible parking habits and manage the disamenities brought about by indiscriminate parking of shared bicycles.
But users have complained that the system needs fine tuning, after some of them were charged service fees despite parking in the stipulated boxes.
Mobike user Royston Tan told Channel NewsAsia that he failed to scan the QR code on at least two occasions despite parking at the right zones, and was charged S$5 each time.
He subsequently emailed Mobike’s customer service team for a refund, including photo evidence that the bicycles were parked in the stipulated parking spaces.
In its reply to Mr Tan, Mobike said it waived the fees, and pledged to report “these faulty QR codes” to LTA.
“We understand that there are a lot of factors that affect the implementation of the said rules. However, we are considering valid reasons and waiving of the said service fee,” Mobike said in its reply.
Displeased with the situation, Mr Tan said authorities should check and ensure that the codes are functional before enforcing the measures.
“LTA should postpone the implementation until it has fixed the QR codes problems,” he said.
PENALTIES INCREASE RISK OF BAN
Another bike-share user Ms Linda Yap told Channel NewsAsia that she has stopped using such services after she was charged S$5 for parking in a stipulated parking zone at an HDB void deck in Hougang.
“I gave up because it’s just not worth the trouble. I’m getting penalised, and risk getting banned for following these very stringent rules. What’s the point?” said the 28-year-old musician.
According to LTA’s regulations, users who fail to park and scan six times in 12 months will be banned for three months, while a nine-time offender will be banned for six months. Meanwhile, those who flout the parking rule 12 times in 12 months will be given a year-long ban.
BIKE-SHARING COMPANIES AWARE OF ISSUES
Bike-sharing companies Mobike, SG Bike and Anywheel, who have all been awarded licences to operate in Singapore, said that they are aware that some of their customers have been "unfairly" charged.
Mobike Singapore country manager Sharon Meng said that the company has received similar feedback from users, and has validated and refunded several disputed charges.
She highlighted that users can submit their appeals to Mobike's customer support team through email or the app.
Meanwhile, SG Bike marketing director Benjamin Oh highlighted that users were "generally unaware" of how the system works, leading to some of them "misunderstanding" why they were being charged.
"Most of the affected users thought that they only needed to park the bicycle at the designated areas, and did not realise that they have to also scan the QR Code to end their trip. As a result, this led to the additional S$5 hire fee, which ... is actually a misunderstanding," said Mr Oh.
Mr Oh said SG Bike has refunded the additional S$5 to these users and are reaching out to them to explain how the system works.
NO QR CODES AT SOME PARKING ZONES
Additionally, commuters have also reported coming across stipulated parking zones that do not have QR codes.
One such location is at a bus stop along Punggol Way, Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia, adding that the bike-sharing parking zone was marked out by a yellow box, but there wasn't a QR code for commuters to scan.
Other users have voiced similar concerns on Mobike’s Facebook page, after trying to parked their shared bicycles at designated parking lots at East Coast Park and Gul Circle.
Mobike, Anywheel and SG Bike told Channel NewsAsia that they have received complaints from users on the lack of QR codes at some parking zones, and are working closely with LTA to resolve this issue.
However, SG Bike marketing director Benjamin Oh have assured users that they “need not worry” as long as the bicycles are parked in the designated areas.
“All they have to do is report the issue to us by taking a photograph of the area to show that the QR code is missing and our customer support team will be able to process it,” said Mr Oh.
He added that SG Bike is ramping up efforts to help its users adjust to the new system, by dispatching crew members on site to help commuters, and sending app notifications to users to explain the added step of scanning the QR code after locking the bicycle.
“We are also working on an update on our app to make it more user-friendly for users to scan the QR code after ending their trip and locking up the bicycle," added Mr Oh.
Channel NewsAsia has reached out to LTA for comment on the lack of QR codes at some parking zones and possible compensation for users who have been unfairly penalised despite parking at the designated areas.