An app-based bike-sharing system, which has gained popularity in hundreds of cities worldwide, has seen a bumpy ride since it was launched in Hong Kong last week, with several of its units found to have been damaged and left in the streets while traditional bike rental shops complain of unfair competition.
GoBee.Bike launched its services in the city on April 20, with 400 bikes initially deployed in New Territories East, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
An on-site inspection in Sha Tin and Tai Wai on Sunday showed only few people were using the service, while several operators of traditional bike rental shops criticized GoBee.Bike for using public parking space for its business, the newspaper said.
GoBee.Bike founder Raphael Cohen said he was shocked and disappointed to learn some of the bikes were left in various places other than the designated areas or racks while a few were apparently intentionally damaged.
He said he has always considered Hong Kong as a safe, international city, and urged the public to report cases of sabotage of the system to the police.
In Sha Tin, a bike rental shop owner said it is not fair that GoBee.Bike makes profits by taking advantage of free bike parking while those in the same business as him have to pay high rents to be able to operate.
He said the unfair competition might lead to his bankruptcy.
Another person who owns a bike rental shop from across MTR Tai Wai Station also slammed GoBee.Bike for using public resources to benefit its business, saying that traditional operators like him may just decide to go into the same bike-sharing business.
But Cohen said his company has received a positive response from the authorities during a discussion on whether public parking space could be used.
He also said the bike-sharing platform can co-exist with traditional bike rental shops, with the former focusing on promoting cycling activities and the latter on repair services.
Wong Ka-wing, a Sha Tin District Council member, said the government has yet to give a a clear answer as to how to regulate the bike-sharing system.
Lawmaker Alice Mak Mei-kuen urged the government to review the situation before it’s too late.
In his policy address in January, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the government “will study how to assist organizations in operating self-financing community bicycle rental services on a non-profit-making basis for providing first and last mile short distance connection”.
However, his office has not announced any action taken regarding the plan.
Hung Wing-tat, a senior member of the Hong Kong Society for Transportation Studies, said the bike-sharing scheme and traditional rental shops will inevitably compete with each other, but the Hong Kong government appears to have turned a blind eye to the issue.
Some people have also raised the issue of security of personal information.
A local programmer said the card payment system used in the bike-sharing scheme does not encrypt card data during the transmission process as well as in storage, suggesting hackers can easily intercept and obtain such data.
GoBee.Bike stressed that no data has been compromised during transactions.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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