Article Source Mashable
SINGAPORE — By next year, Singapore will get a new mode of transport for short distances — bicycle-sharing.
Mobike, a bicycle-sharing startup from China, has announced it’s expanded into the island state, and is keen to start distributing its electric bikes here.
Like projects such as Citi Bike, Mobike’s bicycles are meant to be booked and ridden for short distances. Another user picks up the bike after you’re done.
But unlike Citi Bike, these bicycles are station-free. They’re locked with a connected bike lock that you activate by scanning a QR code, and you lock it back when you’re done with the ride — you just leave them on the corner of a street and walk away.
Florian Bohnert, Mobike’s Singapore general manager who’s moved here for its expansion, told Mashable the bike locks have a cellular connection to the internet and a GPS unit, so they can broadcast where they are on a map for the next user, or if they’re stuck somewhere and need retrieving
Besides the lock, Mobike’s bicycles are clever works of beauty themselves. Made to be “maintenance-free” for four years, the bikes are full aluminium to prevent rust or corrosion, and airless tyres mean they’re not going to get a flat.
The transmission is a crank-and-shaft with the drivetrain concealed, so users won’t have to deal with traditional chains popping off. Being concealed allows them to be a little more weather-resistant, too.
The bike locks charge themselves when the user pedals, so you don’t have to plug in the bike either.
Mobike is unusual in its field also because it makes its own bikes. Bohnert said this allows the company to keep costs down, while more quickly building improvements into its bikes based on user feedback.
Bike-sharing heating up in China
As bold as the four year maintenance-free claim is, no one’s tested that theory out because Mobike is just six months old.
Back home, the company is locked in a fierce battle for pedal power with local rivals like ofo. Didi Chuxing, the country’s dominant ride-hailing player, and Xiaomi are part of investors which have poured $130 million into ofo so far, which claims it’s the biggest bike-sharing platform with some 70,000 bikes spread out over 20 cities.
Mobike is considerably smaller, having just opened in its fourth city of Shenzhen, after Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing earlier this year.
But it’s already managed to convince investors like Tencent, Sequoia Capital and Singapore’s Vertex to park $100 million with it, Bohnert said.
Will Singaporeans like bike-sharing?
Mobike is starting to ship its bikes over to Singapore, and it plans to open to beta testers before the year is up.
It’ll probably start in a closed network such as a school campus while it tests, and is already talking to tertiary institutions and government bodies, Bohnert said.
While he couldn’t reveal what the price for a ride will be in Singapore, if China is any indication, it’ll be pretty affordable.
After a 299 RMB ($44) deposit, rides cost just 1 RMB (15 cents) per half hour.
Mobike’s entrance to Singapore comes as the country explores bicycling as a viable transportation mode. The country has a ways to go before it’s truly rider-friendly, however.
For one, because bicycles are not allowed on the pavement, riders have to go on the roads, which don’t have marked out bike lanes. This makes biking alongside cars considerably more dangerous.
Since May, over 700 cyclists and e-scooter users have been booked for reckless riding, the government said this month.
The government plans to release new laws on riding later this year, which could help lay out the rules better for companies like Mobike.
Singapore has also built an extensive network of connected parks, that could help last-mile riders get from train stations to the office, away from congested roads.
If it all pans out legally, just getting a portion of the 7 million commutes made daily here could be worthwhile for Mobike. Bohnert said only 1.5 percent of those commutes are by bike right now — just nudging it up a few percentage points could make Mobike’s first overseas expansion effort a success.
Article Source Mashable