Can measures such as QR code parking solve indiscriminate dumping of shared bikes?
A shared bicycle abandoned in Queensway. (Photo: Elizabeth Khor)
SINGAPORE: The Government on Monday (Mar 5) proposed a new licensing framework aimed at tackling the indiscriminate parking of dockless shared bicycles, but there are some users who feel that the measures may be inadequate.As part of the Parking Places (Amendment) Bill introduced in Parliament on Monday, bike-sharing companies will have their fleet sizes reviewed every six months by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), based on how well their users park shared bikes within designated zones or "yellow boxes".In addition, bike-sharing operators will also have to implement QR code-based geo-fencing at parking spaces by the second half of 2018. This will require users to scan a unique QR code at parking stations as proof of proper parking before they can end their trip.Users who do not scan the QR codes at yellow boxes will not be able to end their trip, and will continue to incur bike rental charges until they park properly.In response to Channel NewsAsia’s queries, ofo Singapore said that they will do their best to adhere to the new rules.“Ofo will closely examine the regulations recently introduced in Parliament and continue working with all relevant authorities to ensure that there is a regulatory framework in place which supports the nascent bike sharing industry,” said Mr Christopher Hilton, head of policy & communications for ofo’s Southeast Asian department.
“We are committed to collaborating with the LTA and other partners to ensure ofo bikes are used in a respectful manner and stored in a way that maintains the cleanliness and order of the environment in Singapore,” he added.Some companies, however, believe that the new Bill could have adverse effects on both operators and users.“While we welcome guidelines by the authorities, the move to introduce licensing regimes instead of educating users places a heavy burden on start-ups, which in turn means that bike sharing users will suffer,” said oBike Singapore general manager Tim Phang.PROPOSED MEASURES ARE TIMELY: USERSThe majority of shared bike users that Channel NewsAsia spoke to generally agreed that the measures are timely.“I think this new measure will eventually lessen the number of bikes parked aimlessly,” said ofo user Huda Abdul, who rides such bikes at least thrice a week.“It’s about time that we educate users on the responsible use of shared bikes, Singapore style – by punishing them via fines.“It’s a pity that we have to resort to this, but I also expected this punishment to happen since we all know much of an eyesore it is with so many bicycles thrown everywhere,” she added.The new rules will at the very minimum make users reconsider before parking indiscriminately, said oBike user Oh Guo Xiang.“With the QR-code method, at least people will think twice before parking at non-designated zones and hopefully it will lead to fewer bikes at sidewalks or in drains for that matter,” said the 22-year-old, who rides shared bikes daily.“However, (bike-sharing) companies will have to sort out their technical issues if they want to enforce such technological measures properly,” he added. “If people find that they can get away with not scanning the yellow box’s QR code, then it will defeat the purpose of implementing the measure in the first place.”HAVE TO BE FAIR TO ALL USERSFor the measures to be fully effective, said Mr Oh, there should also be more designated parking zones.“This is especially so for places with the most trips ended, where perhaps the LTA can make more yellow boxes to make it easier to park the bikes,” he said.Mr Oh said that he hoped to see more areas categorised as official zones, citing purpose-built metal racks at void decks and bus interchanges that already act as bike parking areas, albeit non-geo-tagged ones.“From what I observe, not many people park at the nearest yellow box per se, but rather at bicycle parking racks … which actually constitutes proper parking but it’s just that the racks they parked at are not geo-identified officially by bike operators.”“The authorities should take this into account and make these spaces official geo-tagged parking zones as well,” he added. “It is not fair to penalise users who park neatly at such purpose-built metal parking racks that aren’t necessarily official yellow boxes.”ABSENCE OF PARKING DOCKS DETRIMENTAL?Another shared bike user Mr Ng Kah Fa thinks that the issue of improper parking will still exist, as long as there are no specialised docks to anchor shared bikes. “Until there’s a physical dock to lock bikes in place, there will still be cases of pranksters throwing bikes down flats and into drains,” said the 32-year-old.“The QR code method would help the general public in some way, in ensuring that bikes are parked in proper zones. It’s just that it still doesn’t prevent nor trace people getting their hands on parked bikes and doing mischief with it.”He added: “The QR code parking method can even be gamed. What if someone takes a photo of a certain yellow zone’s QR code and prints it for keepsakes, only to use it at indiscriminate parking in unofficial spaces?”Transport researcher Prof Gopinath Menon, however, believes that having QR code parking is better than not having any parking stipulations at all.“There are loopholes in most automatic systems. If we concentrate on the loopholes, no systems will be introduced,” said the Nanyang Technological University lecturer.“With the proposed Bill, I think most users will now think twice before abandoning it anywhere they like,” he added. “Also, operators will also be more on the lookout for indiscriminately parked bikes.”“Definitely the situation will be better than today. As for how much better things will become, we'll have to wait and see,” he said.