Gobee bikes have begun appearing in Sai Kung. Three were spotted near the kiosk at Pak Tam Chung this morning. Gobee.Bike raised US$9 million in venture capital this year and Founder Raphael Cohen has said thousands of the green cycles will be available in Hong Kong by the end of this month.
It is an interesting concept. Once you have used a Gobee bike ($5 for 30 minutes) you can leave it anywhere. To get a bike you download the app and register. It will tell you how to find a nearby bike. “Scan the QR code at the rear of the bike,” the website says, “or enter the bike’s barcode into the app to unlock. Ride to your destination and leave the bike in any cycle park spot. Lock the bike.”
The US$9 million financing for Raphael Cohen’s start-up was raised by Grishin Robotics of California with the help of Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and the company was launched in April. The bikes can be found in towns all over the New Territories. Inevitably, the start-up will have ups and downs.
Gobee Bike’s main competition is rental shops that require their bikes to be returned to certain locations. In Hong Kong, however, go public with a good business plan and competition will emerge seemingly overnight. A new firm called Hobabike, which launched in June, is aimed at family users, and requires customers to park its bicycles at designated areas. A third operator is in the process of being launched by a group of local cycling enthusiasts, raising their financing through crowd funding.
However this raises all sorts of questions for Sai Kung residents. Many towns and cities in China, Europe and N America have banned the bikes, as they do not have enough designated cycle parking spots – as we know too well. Many legislators and government officials who are in favour of cycling are urging that expansion of the services be blocked until such time as there are enough parking spaces.
According to Guy Shirra, Friends of Sai Kung found only 12 bike parking spaces around Sai Kung when they reported in a previous BUZZ. At the same time, Gobee bikes and similar do not normally have gears, so how useful they would be around Sai Kung outside of the town centre is questionable. The experience in Sha Tin has not been a happy one. Three bikes were dumped in the river within days of the launch in April.