As Hong Kong is witnessing the introduction of more shared-use bicycles, the government is facing growing calls to fix problems such as illegal parking and other issues related to the new business.
Since local bike-sharing firm Gobee.bike launched its service in April and offered more than a thousand bicycles for sharing, there have been a total of four such firms involved in the business here, with the latest one being oBike from Singapore that joined the fray last month.
It is estimated that there could be nearly 10,000 bicycles offered for sharing in Hong Kong by the end of the year.
As the shared-use bike numbers rise, there are fears that the chaos currently seen on the streets, mainly illegal parking, can only get worse if the government does not take proper control measures, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Currently, one can see quite a number of illegally parked bicycles in places such as Yuen long, Tin Shui wai, Ma On Shan and Tseung Kwan O, causing many pedestrians to complain about street obstruction and some people fretting that they can’t find public parking space for their own bicycles.
Although multiple interdepartmental actions have been taken, they seem to be in vain as the problem persists.
Lee Yuet-man, a member of Yuen long District Council, blames it on ineffective law enforcement and lack of proper care in framing the rules.
He pointed out that although the law stipulates that bicycles that have been illegally parked for 24 hours or more are to be impounded, new ones just keep increasing and have no notices stuck on them.
Accusing the government of failing to aggressively tackle the problems from bike-sharing and put long-term measures in place, Lee suggested that illegally parked bicycles be impounded immediately after they are spotted, with no requirement of issuing a 24-hour advance notice so as to achieve a deterrent effect.
Meanwhile, he urged bike-sharing firms to revise the terms of their lease contracts, telling their customers that fees calculation can only be stopped after they park bicycles in designated spaces.
Bike-sharing firms claim they have been making efforts to ease the problem of illegal parking.
While describing Hong Kong’s support for cyclists as insufficient, oBike’s Hong Kong branch manager said his firm is using Facebook messages, as well as sending staff all over the city, to advise users against illegal parking of bicycles.
The executive believes the problem will ease as Hongkongers are generally well educated.
Gobee.bike said its staff has been patrolling in every district to minimize illegal parking, and also added that its app has instructions for customers on how to park bicycles properly.
Chan Ka-leung, a member of the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance, suggested the government take reference from other places as to manage the bike-sharing boom.
He pointed out that in Taiwan’s New Taipei City, for instance, operators are required to put up a bond, have their own parking space and conduct business within designated areas. If a firm fails to meet the conditions, it could face a fine of up to NT$100,000 (around US$3,280), Chan noted.
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