Bike-sharing is facing several issues in the city

Vandalism, theft and ‘privatization’ of shared bikes is causing serious problems for Asian bike-sharing companies. On top of that, European municipalities are sometimes reluctant to welcoming them in their cities. What is happening to those bike-sharing companies operating in Europe?

In a relatively short period of time, several Asian companies from the bike-sharing sector have entered the European market. Amongst them are Ofo, Mobike, and Gobee—some of which are backed by huge investors. Those bike-sharing start ups noticed that they ran out of space in their home market. Therefore, they decided to make it to Europe - since this continent is known for it’s many cyclists. Moreover, Europe has a cyclist-friendly environment and counts several organizations that make a serious effort in improving the already sophisticated infrastructure.

Those companies have put thousands of bicycles into the European city streets. But within several months, they suffered from vandalism and bike theft. And apparently, this does not concentrate in just one country, the problem seems to recur all over Europe - in Italy, the UK, France and Belgium they suffered from the same issues. Recently, in France it has got up to a point where Gobee.bike decided to pull out of the market. Gobee.bike stated that “It is with great sadness that we are officially announcing to our community the termination of Gobee.bike service in France on 24 February 2018.”

This problem was so widespread that it even lead to thinking that vandalism and bike theft were a part of European culture. However, the same complaints came from Chinese as well as American cities. What is going on here? Does this have to do with the fact that people don’t actually own the bike, which may cause them to be less careful? One could also raise questions concerning the surveillance and whether it is developed enough to avoid these kinds of acts. The answer remains to be found.

 

This is, however, not the only problem for the bike-sharing companies. Cities are not always tolerating the many dumped bicycles on their streets. That is due to the fact that those shared bikes don’t have a fixed parking space, so everyone who rents a bike can just leave it everywhere he or she pleases. And even if there are, the bikes are not always parked there. They’re often left on the streets, waiting for someone else to be picked up. In some cases it annoyed municipalities that much that they intervened.

One of those cities is the Dutch city of Amsterdam. In an official statement, the municipality declared to remove all shared bikes that are parked in public spaces. At first, the city seemed glad with bike sharing companies, because it was seen as an opportunity to get rid of the millions of privately owned bikes that were randomly parked in the city. But it turned out to be a disappointment, which lead to the removal of shared bikes in public spaces. And despite the effort made by the bike-sharing companies to gain good relations with municipalities, it is still not always being welcomed.

The problem here is twofold. One the one hand, bike-sharing suffer from vandalism and theft. On the other hand, municipalities are not always happy with the fact that people park those bikes wherever they please, which sometimes causes huge constipation of public parking spaces. What could be done to improve conditions for both the bike sharing companies and the municipalities, so that both parties could cooperate in a productive manner? Is regulation the answer, or should people just be more caring?