A dockless bike-sharing review
12 July, 2018
The last days and weeks have seen a lot of interesting information popping out about dockless bike-sharing companies’ strategy. Each of the major Asian and US ones have taken important decision, either on the markets they are working on, or on the solutions they offer.
Spin decided to stop bikeshare, and will now focus on electric scooters. As Euwyn Poon, President and co-founder of Spin, told the Boston Globe, the company plans to honour the one-year agreement with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council by deploying its orange e-bikes in Arlington, Medford, Winthrop, and a dozen other suburbs this summer. It is implied that no further partnership will occur, come the end of the one-year agreement.
A lot of changes for ofo as well. They pulled out of quite a lot of regions: Australia, Israël, India, and some UK cities (Sheffield, and cancellation of Leeds launch). The vandalism acts in Australia have been published a lot, and apparently forced the company to take the strategic decision to withdraw from the country within 60 days! Same decision in Israel, where ofo was operating 500 bikes throughout the city of Ramat-Gan and 100 bikes on the campus of Bar-Ilan University. 5 months after the launch, they will exit the country by the end of july… In India, ofo fired the majority of its staff, and withdraw from all cities but Pune. And finally, in UK, they are pulling out of Sheffield, in order to “focus on other key UK markets”. Each time, the company argues that the decision is just a strategic choice, to focus on some regions or cities. But let’s face it, it’s the first time in ofo’s history that they are withdrawing from so many countries or cities in so little time! As many observers are assuming, ofo might be facing a complicated economical situation, and has now to focus on profitable markets.
To finish with the list of closure, Mobike also pulled out of Stockport, UK. No articles found about it, but Mobike’s app confirms that no bikes are available anymore there…
All these decisions to stop services in cities, regions or countries raise the important ethical problem in the mobility space: cheap private services are offered and adopted by travellers. They are also integrated by the transportation authorities in terms of planification and organisation… but what are the repercussions associated with a major stakeholder pulling out of the industry? What to do with the bikes? What service to propose as a substitute?…
On the positive side, Mobike unveiled “a series of new initiatives designed to further improve its user experience”
- Meituan: Mobike’s service will be fully integrated to the Meituan app. It is a 600 millions more potential users!!
- Deposit: Mobike will not require deposits anymore, and will refund its current users, in China and Singapore first.
- Recycling: with an estimated 10 million shared bikes to be recycled by 2020, Mobike decided to invest US$455M into the new Mobike Life Cycle program, to reduce, reuse and recycle bike components
- E-bike: Mobike finally unveiled its E-bike, that will be launched in chinese streets as a start. With a 20km/h maximum speed, a 70km range, and its futuristic design, it will certainly convince new users, if it remains affordable. Apparently, it already has been tested live in Guiyang, Guizhou, with a positive feedback.
Lime stays on the good side as well, recently announcing a US$335M fundraise, with Uber and Google (Alphabet) as new investors. Concretely, Lime’s electric scooters will soon be available on Uber’s app, together with Jump bikes (what about Lime’s bikes??).
I will finish with Singapore, whre LTA’s new regulation is changing the market deeply. The application period for licenses is now closed. 3 operators decided to stop their services in the state-city: oBike, GBikes and ShareBikeSG. 4 operators finally applied: ofo, Mobike, SG Bike and GBikes, with 3 more asking for a regulatory sandbox licence. In addition to clarify the bike-sharing offer, another consequence might be for riders to bear the costs of the new demanding regulations. More requirements means more staff… means a more expensive service!