We believe that the controversial dockless bike-share experiment that started in China has met its dearth and in Hong Kong, we are now left with hundreds of abandoned bikes ditched along hiking trails all over Hong Kong.

‘Share More, Consume Less’ or ‘Share More, Waste More’?
Hiking trail used as a dump site for bikes in Hong Kong. Image copyright : Dimsumdaily
Huge Piles of abandoned and Broken Bicycles found on many hiking trails in Hong Kong. Image copyright : Dimsumdaily

A lot of these bikes were vandalized, left behind on trails for extended periods and mounting in excessive numbers. Some of the bikes are left for days, weeks, or months, in some cases without being moved.

These twisted metal carcasses definitely dampened the efforts of the local Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) to protect the environment. The authorities should give a final ultimatum to some of these companies which are still in operation to remove their bikes from the trails with immediate effect as they are not only an eyesore to hikers but also damaging to the environment. AFCD must also act swiftly to remove the discarded bikes on their own initiative if no action is done.

Many bikes can be seen piling up along the Tung O Ancient Trail towards Tai O. Image copyright : Dimsumdaily

The doomed bike-sharing start-ups : Gobee.bike and OFO 

Gobee.bike, a Hong Kong bike-sharing start up went bust in July 2018 and Co-founder Rafael Cohen blamed the failure on high maintenance costs.

Despite rumours that OFO, the Chinese bike-sharing start-up has filed for bankruptcy in October 2018, the company is adamant that their financial health is still in good shape. The denial was made after a Chinese newspaper reported that a securities institution was helping OFO to file for bankruptcy. Chief Executive Officer Dai Wei laid out the company’s challenges in an impassioned letter to employees in December 2018, from customers seeking deposit refunds to suppliers demanding unpaid bills. The company has been slapped with multiple lawsuits as they owe many suppliers to the tune of 6.5 billion yuan. For now, Ofo fully intends to persist with its business model but they have expressed their intent to withdraw from many cities.

Why bike sharing business failed in China and Hong Kong?

However, the rapid growth vastly outpaced immediate demand and overwhelmed Chinese cities, where infrastructure and regulations were not prepared to handle a sudden flood of millions of shared bicycles. Riders would park bikes anywhere, or just abandon them, resulting in bicycles piling up and blocking already-crowded streets and pathways. As cities impounded derelict bikes by the thousands, they moved quickly to cap growth and regulate the industry. Vast piles of impounded, abandoned, and broken bicycles have become a familiar sight in many big cities. As some of the companies who jumped in too big and too early have begun to fold, their huge surplus of bicycles can be found collecting dust in vast vacant lots. Bike sharing remains very popular in China, and will likely continue to grow, just probably at a more sustainable rate. Meanwhile, we are left with these images of speculation gone wild—the piles of debris left behind after the bubble bursts.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, there is simply not enough infrastructure to dock the bikes. The city itself is not bicycle friendly as public transport is considered efficient. Most people would ride bikes as a recreational activity only. Non-integrated payment apps such as WeChat pay and AliPay by different bike-sharing companies are imposed on riders making the rental process more complicated.

Instruction on an abandoned OFO bike. Image copyright : Dimsumdaily