SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it will be engaging oBike on its exit plans amid concerns from commuters that thousands of bicycles will be left abandoned on the streets, after the company announced on Monday morning (Jun 25) that it has ceased operations in Singapore.
Users of the bike-sharing app who tried to unlock bicycles on Monday were unable to, leaving thousands of oBikes left idle on pavements, parks and bus stops all over the country.
In response to media queries from Channel NewsAsia, LTA said it “will be engaging oBike on their exit plans, including the removal of shared bicycles from public places”.
IT administrator Nicholas Lee, who travelled via oBike at least twice daily, told Channel NewsAsia that he tried to unlock three oBikes on his way to work on Monday morning, but got error messages informing him that the company had ceased operations in Singapore.
“The bicycles were along the Siglap park connector, near a bus stop and opposite Kembangan MRT. Will these bicycles now be just left there? Who’s going to clear them away now that oBike could just pack up and go,” said the 29-year-old.
Another commuter, Elliot Pang, who does not use bike-sharing apps, said that the idle oBikes could invite some “irresponsible people” to strip the bicycles for parts.
“I’ve seen people removing the chains, the seats, the wheels from these bikes. Now that oBike is out of the picture, these people might take the opportunity to take the bicycles and take what they need – without consequences,” said the 48-year-old.
Transport analyst Prof Lee Der Horng told Channel NewsAsia that LTA will have to step in to ensure that oBike removes all its bicycles.
“We cannot tolerate the bicycles just being left there. Bike-sharing is a very cruel test of human tendencies - it exposes the dark side of people and let’s hope the authorities will intervene to improve the situation,” said Prof Lee, who works at the National University of Singapore.
Dr Walter Theseira, a transport economist at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, told Channel NewsAsia that there are “reasonable concerns” that any operator who exits may do so in a disorderly manner without clearing its bikes or refunding deposits.
“It’s unclear whether oBike falls in this group and whether there are effective sanctions the authorities can use if they don’t fulfill their obligations,” he said.
Channel NewsAsia has reached out to oBike to clarify its plans for collecting its bicycles.
oBIKE USERS UNABLE TO RETRIEVE DEPOSITS
Besides the issue of abandoned bicycles, many oBike users have also complained that they have been unable to retrieve the S$49 deposit they made to use the app.
Transport planner Ryan Wong, who used oBike thrice a week, said the “refund deposit” feature on his app was not available when he tried to access it on Monday morning.
“I contacted them and they said that the app will be updated soon. But no updates have been issued. And I still can't withdraw my deposit,” said the 30-year-old, who paid for three separate accounts with his credit card.
“I am hopeful that oBike will sort this out. I’m not sure of what I can do. I hope the Government intervenes,” he added.
Jeremy, another oBike user, told Channel NewsAsia that the oBike app does not detect internet connection. He said the app indicated that he paid a S$49 deposit, but the refund button was not there.
“I have not received any news from oBike on how they will be refunding us. So I’ve made a police report,” said the IT engineer.
In its statement to Channel NewsAsia, LTA said affected consumers should make a request for the refund of their deposits or subscription fees with oBike if they have not already done so.
LTA added that users who are facing difficulties getting their refunds from oBike may wish to approach the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE). Channel NewsAsia has contacted CASE for comment, and also asked oBike about such problems.
LTA has set a Jul 7 deadline for bike-sharing firms to submit applications for a licence to operate in public places or cease operations.
Those who submit them will have their applications evaluated and licence awarded by September.
Four other bike-sharing firms - Mobike, ofo, SG Bike and Anywheel - have indicated to Channel NewsAsia that they plan to meet the deadline.