Thursday, 15 June 2017

(The Star) One swipe away from an easy ride

If you see someone on a yellow and metallic frame bicycle, it is probably one provided by bike-sharing app oBike.

The oBike is an on-demand and station-less bicycle-sharing platform aimed at changing short-distance transportation through the use of technology.

It was introduced in the country in April and is currently located at Sunway City, Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya, Damansara and Kota Kinabalu.

The service now has 1,000 bicycles up for rent.

To determine how user-friendly oBike is, this reporter tried it out from SunU-Monash BRT station to Sunway University.

Once the app was switched on, several bicycles could be seen scattered around the area but they proved difficult to locate.

There was no GPS directional app like Waze paired to the oBike app to help the user.

Fortunately, there was an oBike parked at the bicycle rack of the BRT station.

The bike was reserved for 10 minutes and the countdown timer began as the reporter walked towards the bike.

The instructions on the bicycle stated that the Bluetooth must be switched on for the mobile app to scan the QR code on the bicycle steering wheel to unlock it.

However, this function did not work after three tries, forcing the reporter to manually key in the bicycle’s serial number into the app.

The ride from the BRT station to the entrance of Sunway University was smooth as the bicycle was in pristine condition.

There are no designated bicycle lanes in the area and although Jalan PJS 11/9 in Bandar Sunway is relatively narrow, the lane was filled with double-parked cars, forcing the rider to lift the bicycle onto the unpaved sidewalk.

The ride lasted 14 minutes and during the 11.45am-to-noon journey, the reporter did not encounter any other riders although two universities are located in the vicinity.

The reporter parked the bicycle near the side gate of the university for the convenience of other users.

Although the 14-minute ride was covered by a free ride promotion, the app still charged a RM69 security deposit (promotional price) to the reporter’s credit card.

Up until June 11, oBike offered a promotional price for its security deposit.

It has now reverted to its original pricing which is RM129 for regular users and RM79 for students.

For Cycling Kuala Lumpur Facebook Group member Weng Chong Lam, the initial security deposit price was far too expensive.

“The deposit of RM129 deterred me from trying it. Perhaps RM20 will be more acceptable,” he said.

College student S. Anand who tried the bicycle in the PJS Sunway area, said it was too heavy.

“It was very tiring to lift it up and down sidewalks,” he said.

Pedestrian infrastructure researcher James Speirs used the bicycle twice a day from his home in Brickfields to Pasar Seni that took nine minutes one-way.

“Unfortunately, there are very few places that provide parking spaces.

“When I cycle to the KL Sentral station, there is nowhere for me to park the bike.

“The guards chase me away even though it is a key transit hub,” he said.

Kota Damansara resident Nor Shahrol Nizam Ab Ghani said people park the bicycles everywhere.

“The service provider should come up with a dedicated place for users to park their bikes at strategic locations such as LRT and MRT stations, schools and commercial areas.

“It does not necessarily have to be a dock system as the bike comes with a lock and stand,” he said.