Sai Kung District Councillor Christine Fong gives her take on the Gobee.bike bust.
Gobee.bike, Hong Kong’s first bike-sharing service provider, has gone bust due to losses and high maintenance costs. Not only Gobee.bike, but others also face issues of theft, vandalism, a lack of parking spaces, abandoned bikes that have angered the public and some have even criticised the companies for using public spaces to generate profits. It seems bike-sharing startups around the world are struggling with this reality. Although multiple interdepartmental actions have been taken, they seem to be in vain as the problem persists. Something must be done to tackle the problem.
Dead bikes can still be seen all over the district and country park. It would be a disaster if we just dump all bikes into the landfill. Gobee.bike should be keenly aware of their social responsibility – to round them up, clean up all dead bikes, and then donate those bikes to non-governmental organisations, other bike-sharing service providers, or even villages, to promote green living.
Other than exploring a licensing scheme and monitoring the development of the bike-sharing industry, regulations should also be rolled out to cut down on indiscriminate parking. Operators in Singapore are now required to remove illegally parked bikes and install geo-fencing technology on the bikes, which will charge users who fail to park in designated areas.
Some of the benefits of biking, rather than driving, like exercise and environmental-friendliness, are quite clear. Yet, why is Hong Kong, given its small territory, not developing into a bike-riding city?
Roads in Hong Kong’s urban areas are usually narrow and crowded. As the standard width of a cycle track should at least be 3.5 metres, which is about the width of a traffic lane, it is difficult to find suitable space for building cycle tracks in urban areas without affecting traffic. Hence, the Government does not encourage the public to use bicycles as a transport mode in urban areas due to road safety considerations. It is understood that if a cycle lane is provided at the expense of the reduction of traffic lanes, it will inevitably cause serious traffic congestion problems.
A bigger concern is how city planning could make Hong Kong a more bike-friendly city. It takes time for Hong Kong to catch up, but it will only be practical with policy support and by that, incorporating cycle tracks in future developments, setting up a comprehensive bicycle lane network connecting the districts, and providing a safe cycling environment.
Bicycle riding in Hong Kong has become more and more popular, but it remains a car town. This is not just the job of government. It is a question of how to encourage more commuters to cycle for a portion of their commute.