Less than a week after bike rental start-up Gobee.bike opened for business, someone threw 15 of their bicycles into the Shing Mun river in Sha Tin.
Like many other businesses entering a market, Gobee.bike will face resistance from some existing competitors. The same thing happened when Uber was first introduced in Hong Kong, and were immediately challenged by local taxi drivers. But Gobee.bike is significantly different from Uber, and we should be using it to help Hong Kong become a bike-friendly city.
Unlike Uber, Gobee.bike offers an entirely different service. Most of Hong Kong’s existing bike rental shops provide services for leisure activities that could last several hours, such as day trips to the mountains in the New Territories. They also offer bikes designed for cross-country biking and other recreational pursuits.
Gobee.bike, on the other hand, provides bikes for short and affordable transportation. Its half-hourly rate of HK$5 also shows that it is designed for users who would prefer to cycle short distances rather than walk. It also helps reduce waste, because people can share products that they do not use all the time.
If Gobee.bike becomes really popular, it will put pressure on our government to make Hong Kong a more bike-friendly city. Many public transportation services, such as the MTR, do not allow bicycles on board unless the front wheels are removed. What’s more, cyclists are prohibited from entering highways and tunnel crossings.
The government has been promoting the use of bicycles and building bike trails, but a lot needs to be done if cycling is to become a major form of transportation in Hong Kong.
Gobee.bike has had to tackle some minor technical flaws, which can be overcome with experience. We should be embracing this new opportunity – and certainly our government should be doing more to help the new bike rental start-up.