If you start seeing bright green bicycles all over the New Territories, don’t worry, it’s not a super cheap bike deal you’ve somehow missed – it’s Gobee.bike, the city’s first bike-sharing system. Launched on April 19, the 400 smart bicycles spread over Sha Tin, Tai Po and Ma On Shan, make for an eco-friendly alternative to buses or cars.
“We had 1,000 bikes in Hong Kong already by the end of last week, and we’re going to have 20,000 by the end of this summer,” says Raphael Cohen, CEO and co-founder of Gobee.bike. He hopes the company will make getting around Hong Kong more convenient and environmentally friendly.
Cohen says the idea was inspired by his many trips to mainland China, where there are around 40 bike-sharing companies operating in most major cities. Having experienced the convenience of these systems, and knowing that owning a bike isn’t realistic for everyone in Hong Kong, Cohen felt it was time to bring the concept of bike-sharing to the city.
Having co-founded Foodpanda in Vietnam and HotelQuickly here in Hong Kong, Cohen is no stranger to running tech start-ups. He is confident that Gobee.bike will be up and running in no time.
The service provides riders with smart e-bicycles that are powered by solar panels. They have an automatic smart light, and an integrated alarm system to prevent theft.
Borrowing ideas from similar services such as Mobike and Ofo, to use Gobee.bike you simply download the app to locate and access the bike closest to you. You then unlock the bike by scanning the QR code on it. When you’re finished with it, you park it at any available bicycle rack, push a lever located under the seat to activate the anti-theft system, and the bike is ready for the next user.
So far, the app is only available to Android users, but Cohen says Apple users will be able to use Gobee.bike by later this week. The company is also working on creating a wearable device to replace using a smartphone to access the service.
Young Post asked some readers what they think of this bike-sharing service.
“I love the idea of riding and then leaving my bike wherever I want to, and it is horribly cheap,” says Bithiah Leung, 14 from YMCA of Young Hong Kong Christian College. “However, it’s not necessarily convenient, because there’s no guarantee I’ll find a bicycle if people can leave it anywhere they want.”
Another possible inconvenience of Gobee.bike is the payment method. The service is pay-as-you-go – set at HK$5 per 30 minutes – but you need to have a credit card registered with the app. You also need to pay a deposit of HK$399 in case you damage the bike.
“The deposit will surely put off many teenagers who don’t own credit cards, and who would find the MTR or a taxi a safer option,” argues Garen Gurung, 14, also of YMCA of Young Hong Kong Christian College.
And not everyone is happy with the idea of such a convenient way to rent a bicycle. There are others whose livelihood could be affected by the success of Gobee.bike.
“Well, obviously it is bad for my business and other businesses like mine,” says a bike-rental staff member who wishes to remain anonymous. He works at a bike-rental company in Ma On Shan, a popular area for recreational biking. “But I think they’ll have a problem because their service is limited to people with a credit card. And a deposit of HK$399 is quite high.”
Meanwhile, a staff member surnamed Chan, who works at a different bike-rental company in Shatin, says: “Gobee.bike could potentially turn Hong Kong into mainland China, where bicycles are parked everywhere,blocking public space. The manpower and resources it takes to collect bikes that are left at far off locations and move them back to popular areas could also cost a lot for them.”