It seemed like a great idea, born out of a utopian vision to enable carbon-free, lightweight and healthy urban transportation. So how did it come to this? Or this? Or this?
I enjoy an occasional cycle down East Coast park on a rented bicycle. It cost $8 - 12 an hour, and anyone who makes it all the way there to cycle would go for at least a 2-hour ride. It's bloody expensive, but it used to be the only way to enjoy the sea breeze while terrifying pedestrians all along the 15+km stretch.
All that's changed now, with cheap bike rentals powered by cleverly implemented technology, or so I thought. The 3 main companies, Ofobike, Mobike and Obike have GPS-tracking to ensure consumers can find the nearest bicycle. Renting is simple enough - just find a bike, use an app to unlock it and pay digitally, and off I go. But they obviously didn't consider that the most important part of their business, the consumer, would be potentially their weakness link.
Traditional bike rental shops must be feeling smug now. On top of the exorbitant bike rentals, they keep the customer's identity card or a $150 deposit to ensure that the bikes are well handled. I've always hated both approaches - giving away an important personal document or a shitload of money, so I can pay a company more money to use their product... well, that's not exactly sterling customer service, is it?
But it works, and future bike renters don't have to deal with broken, defaced or otherwise abused bikes. We're all at fault for why we can't have nice things. AirBnB has to deal with tenants from hell. Car renters have their share of slobs who coat the steering wheel and the interior of a car with as much as oil as they consume in the gas tank. Supermarkets deal with the problem daily.
But surely the solution is not a tech one. It shouldn't be to build a more resilient GPS that cannot be dislodged from the bike. It cannot be a marketplace where people need to rate each other to get everyone to behave themselves, like the latest entrant to bike-sharing in Singapore. It's a human problem that needs a human solution. Parents need to teach their kids to respect property, both private and public. Lose the sense of entitlement, and understand that we're all in this together. Inconvenience others, and you will get it too. It's a recurring tenet in the history of Man, but while technology has reliably progressed onward to greater things... I'm afraid humanity hasn't, yet.
About this blog
Mostly startup and tech stuff. An occasional rant or two. Travel-related articles are published on my other blog.