Oh dear, others on the way?

By David Schout

After much-maligned dockless bicycle company oBike withdrew its Melbourne fleet in June, rival companies are preparing to enter the market.

Beijing-based Mobike and Ofo, two of the world’s largest bike sharing companies, appear to be the front-runners while Sydney-based Reddy Go announced it has put its Melbourne expansion on hold.

A spokesperson for Mobike told CBD News its plans for the Melbourne market have not been affected by oBike’s failures.

“While there have been some challenges with bike sharing in Melbourne to date, these challenges don’t mean that it can’t work,” a spokesperson said.

“We’ve successfully introduced well-run bike share fleets in many cities across the globe, as well as the Gold Coast and Sydney. We hope that we will be able to do the same for Melbourne once we’ve reached an agreement with the local councils where we would like to operate.”

After oBike’s calamitous 12-month period in Melbourne that included users dumping them in trees, on public toilet blocks and into the Yarra River, Mobike has signalled it intends to consult with users before launching in the city.

“We’re currently in discussion with local councils and looking at ways to engage the local community to ensure any expansion is to Melbourne is done in a responsible and community centric manner.”

When announcing oBikes’ departure on June 12, Lord Mayor Sally Capp said instances of bike dumping and vandalism were disappointing.

“What’s made it very difficult for everybody involved is the behaviour of people using the oBikes,” she said.

“It’s so hard to regulate people’s behaviour in the way that they’re using oBikes – or bikes of that nature generally – so it’s a big challenge for operators.”

An EPA crackdown on oBike meant the Singapore-based company faced fines of $3000 for each dumped bike not collected within a certain timeframe. The pressure showed, and shortly after, it announced its departure.

Cr Capp maintained the council was not against bike sharing companies and supported alternative means of transport in the city.

Fellow Beijing-based provider Ofo – who operate in over 250 cities worldwide and has received over $US2.2 billion in venture capital funding – wasn’t willing to share details on its Melbourne expansion when contacted. However, like Mobike, it acknowledged the cultural issues in place when introducing a dockless bike-sharing scheme.

“We know there are challenges around the placement of the bikes on the streets and the removal of damaged bicycles in the community,” spokesperson Mitchel Price said.

Sydney-based Reddy Go, however, has put its Melbourne expansion on hold. After revealing to CBD News in January that it was planning a Melbourne launch, it appears both oBikes’ issues in Melbourne and similar problems in Sydney have made it cautious.

“Currently we have put Melbourne expansion plans on hold, and are focusing on our operations in the Sydney market for now. There is currently no timeframe as to when we will reconsider expansion,” a Reddy Go spokesperson said.

“After some challenges in the Sydney market, it was decided that it was more of a priority to ensure that operations in Sydney ran smoothly, as opposed to expanding at a pace quicker than we could manage.”

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