SINGAPORE: Shared bikes are being used less than twice a day and for about half an hour each time, according to a study by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), the world’s first research paper on the subject.
The study showed that although more commuters are hopping on a dockless shared bike to get to the nearest MRT station or bus stop, usage was higher in the evenings after 5pm than in the morning peak hours.
This raises the issue of rebalancing where operators need to redistribute the bikes according to when and where they are most in use, said the report, which was published last month in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation.
The study, titled "Understanding the usage of dockless bike-sharing in Singapore", also revealed that shared bikes are heavily used as part of the last-mile of journeys.
The findings stem from more than 14 million records of data gathered from one of the largest bike-sharing operators in Singapore. The bike-share operator was not named.
The data collection, which took place over a period of nine days in April and May last year, was based on the GPS data of all the operator's bikes.
WEATHER KEY ROLE IN BIKE USE
SMART Future Urban Mobility postdoctoral associate Dr Zhang Xiaohu says the findings also point to the weather as a key role in usage patterns.
"If the temperature becomes too hot, then the usage (of shared bikes) is decreased," he said.
Dr Zhang also pointed out how Singapore's frequent rainy weather impacted not only bike usage, but also the condition of the bike itself.
"The frequent rain really degrades the bikes much faster than other places in the world," he said.
"I think we also need to consider how we can build more durable bikes in Singapore to really improve bike-sharing usage."
The study also found that the supply of shared bikes was much higher in public housing estates, as opposed to private residential neighbourhoods.
As for ongoing and unsightly issue of bikes being strewn about haphazardly, Dr Zhang says the problem can be addressed with a combination of social responsibility and proper bike-centric facilities.
While the government has already taken steps to tackle the problem, he said more can be done.
"Compared with the infrastructure of other transportation mode in Singapore, I think the cycling infrastructure is lacking," said Dr Zhang.
"In order to realise Singapore’s vision of a car-lite society, I think we really need to promote active mobility patterns to build more cycling and pedestrian infrastructure for Singapore in the future."
Dr Zhang also recommended that operators look into adjusting their fleet sizes, as oversupply can hurt their economic sustainability and cause urban and visual pollution.