Maybe Dockless Bikesharing Was A Bad Idea

On Wednesday, Singapore-based bikesharing startup oBike dropped off 400 autolocking, smartphone-connected bicycles onto the footpaths of London, having already arrived in Australia early last month. Two days later, and, uh, things aren’t going so hot.

As Trusted Reviews editor Michael Passingham tweeted this morning, one London city district has already hit several of oBike’s bikes with big yellow warning tags for causing “unnecessary obstruction”.

In addition to obstruction notices, the program has left pedestrians frustrated, footpaths swamped, and at least one bicycle seemingly island-marooned, making it increasingly clear that perhaps dockless bikesharing is not a very good idea — at least not in London.

oBike launched in February 2017 with the idea to connect thousands of rentable bikes to a smartphone app that allows you to locate a GPS-equipped bike, scan a QR code to unlock it, and ride it around for about $1.99 per half hour. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, all you need to do is lock the bike electronically and walk away, ideally without blocking footpaths or bike lanes. The concept differs significantly from most city bikesharing programs, such as London’s Boris Bikes, which require city-approved docks to be installed along predetermined commuter routes.

While this is oBike’s first time in London, the company already completed a trial-run in Cambridge earlier this year. There, the company was reportedly forced to downsize its fleet from 500 down to 20 bikes after ruffling the feathers of the Cambridge City Council.

In Australia, oBike has riled up commuters by clogging public bicycle racks. And Aussies have discovered oBikes in unfortunate locations, such as underwater and beneath an overpass. oBike’s competitors, including Mobike and Ofo, have also faced challenges at home and abroad.

oBike has already agreed to remove its bikes from three districts in West London after being confronted by the Hammersmith & Fulham Council, according to the Council’s blog. We’ve reached out to oBike to hear about how exactly they feel their London launch is going.