GBikes quietly rode into Singapore's saturated bike-sharing scene - rolling out 3,000 bikes by end-Sept
The sharing economy has seen a rapid rise in Singapore.
Besides the four bicycle-sharing players - ofo, obike, Mobike, and SG Bike which entered the market last month - in Singapore, there are also scooter-sharing startups that have emerged in the scene.
With so many players in Singapore, one might think that the market is very saturated for tiny Singapore.
But financial technologies solution firm FinTechSG thinks otherwise, and has rolled out a bicycle-sharing initiative here called GBikes.
It has been very quiet about its entry, though it has been operational for about five months now.
Since its inception in May, GBikes aims to launch 3,000 of its bicycles throughout Singapore by end-September.
Right off the bat, I don't see anything unique about its bicycles though it claims to boast many safety features.
For instance, its bikes are equipped with front and rear lights that run on kinetic energy, reducing the need for environmentally-unfriendly lithium batteries.
In terms of usage, GBikes operate on the same mechanism as the rest of the existing shared bicycles here.
After downloading the app, users can locate the nearest bike and scan its QR code to unlock it. But users first have to pay a security deposit of $49, which they can withdraw after 3 months.
Once users are done riding, they can simply park the GBike at the designated parking yellow box, lock it, and confirm end trip via mobile.
Every half an hour usage is charged at $1, which is comparable to its competitors.
USE, NOT ABUSE BIKES
Photo: GBikesBut although these shared bikes have helped us bridge the 'last mile' problem, it has also caused a lot of inconvenience.
There has been a spate of cases in which these bikes block pedestrian pathways as well as the exits of private condominiums.
Besides irresponsible parking, these bicycles have also been abused and damaged by users, with videos circulating on social media depicting them being thrown into canals and even from high-rise HDB flats.
"I can't say that (such incidents) will not happen with GBikes," said Mr Joe Chia, chief financial officer for both FinTechSG and GBikes. But he added that the firm's bikes have features aimed at preventing such misuse.
For example, an alarm sounds should they be moved after they are locked. It is also working to implement geofencing technology to prevent irresponsible parking.
GBikes also have a rewards system in place whereby users can earn rewards points through good conduct behaviour. Essentially, Reward Points encourage safe riding, proper parking and user awareness concerning sharing a road with other road users and also can be use to redeem rewards.
As it expands, GBikes will have to abide by new guidelines governing the use of shared bicycles.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it is working together with bike-sharing firms here - as well as the National Parks Board and all 16 town councils - on guidelines for the use of shared bicycles in public spaces here.
"As part of this agreement, the operators will be expected to abide by a common set of operating conditions and educate their riders to park in designated zones," said an LTA spokesman.
"They will also be expected to implement measures, such as geo-fencing technology and public education initiatives to incentivise and inform their riders on safe riding and responsible parking."
GBikes have raised $20 million in its initial round of funding and it hopes to work with companies in Europe and the United States to introduce its bicycles as well as other technology - such as electronic payment methods - to bike-sharing providers there.
Locally, it is looking to expand its business here by introducing electric bicycles.
Mr Chia describes Singapore as a "very good starting ground" for bike-sharing services, pointing to cycling infrastructure such as the park connector network.
In line with the Government's car-lite vision, the cycling network is expected to expand to more than 700km across the island by 2030. In addition, more facilities such as bicycle crossings and bike parking spaces are being introduced.
While it's clear that Singapore is working hard towards laying the groundwork to become a cycling nation, it still has a long way to go.
In China, where bike-sharing is booming, some cities have dedicated bicycle lanes almost as wide as car lanes.