21 March 2019 began with a bang but ended with a whimper. Photo: Reuters began with a bang but ended with a whimper. Photo: Reuters

Traditional bicycle shop to clean up Gobee mess, Hong Kong’s bike-sharing service pioneer, closed shop in July, but its signature green two-wheelers could still be seen in many street corners and pavements across the city.

Tai Po-based Lung Kee Bicycle Shop has secured the court’s approval to retrieve all of its ertswhile rival’s bikes following a fire sale.

Lung Kee plans to fix all bicycles before selling them at HK$300 each, the same amount of deposit that Gobee users used to pay to avail themselves of the service at HK$5 per half-an-hour ride.

That’s quite a bargain, even for a used unit, although some are said to be in poor condition. 

It is uncertain how much Lung Kee could make out of this exercise. And it would be quite a task to retrieve all those bicycles lying around in the New Territories from the promenade in Tuen Mun to the residential developments in Sheung Shui.

Lung Kee only serves as a good example of how a traditional player ends up cleaning up the mess of brash but inexperienced players.

So adieu to the two-year startup, who began with a bang and ended with a whimper.

Just in August last year, it raised US$9 million to fund its global expansion. It was able to excite investors over its glowing prospects, and soon it established its presence overseas, including Belgium, France and Italy.

But the reality on the ground did not allow for a smooth ride. Rivals soon emerged and competition intensified. Bicycle thefts and vandalism became rampant, while residents complained about indiscriminate parking.

Many firms who jumped on the sharing economy bandwagon flourished, but many also fell by the wayside.

It’s a shame that ended this way. Competition is inevitable. At its peak, there were bikes of all colors on the streets: yellow for Ofo, blue for Locobike, white for Hobabike and, of course, green for the leader of the pack.

But the color of the game is fading, and somebody will have to clean up the mess.

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EJ Insight writer

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