oDear, oBike: Dockless bike startup's London launch doesn't go as planned

Courtney Goldsmith
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oBike's signature yellow bikes were found strewn around Hammersmith & Fulham (Source: oBike)

Bad news for Singapore-based startup oBike, which just this week brought its dockless bike-sharing platform to London.

While oBike attempts to propel the bike sharing revolution in the UK, not everyone was pleased when around 400 yellow bikes showed up on the streets of Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush and Fulham.

According to Hammersmith & Fulham council, bikes were left obstructing footpaths and creating potential hazards for pedestrians throughout the borough.

Read more: The Chinese are coming: Boris bikes under threat from a new kid in town

"We're really positive about cycling in H&F ... But these bikes appeared without any consultation at all with H&F council. Plus we have concerns about the way they had been placed on the streets, and protecting the health and safety of people in the borough," the council said in a statement.

“We're very much in favour of cycling,” said councillor Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith & Fulham council.

“But we expect companies to properly consult with us first. This launch could have been much better thought out.”

oBike agreed to remove the bikes that were distributed throughout the borough today and said it will meet with the council to discuss ways to make the cycle scheme work.

Feryal Demirci, cabinet member for Neighbourhoods, Transport and Parks in Hackney, added that Hackney welcomes any scheme that makes it easier and cheaper for residents to cycle, but it was disappointed that oBike had not contacted the council.

Demirci outlined her concerns:

Firstly, bikes could be left in locations that cause obstructions and problems for pedestrians particularly the elderly, disabled and parents with prams. This could also undermine the public’s perception of the scheme.

Secondly, we need to know how the bikes will be redistributed as it is likely that there will be clusters of bikes left around locations like train stations and high streets.

Thirdly, we need a way of easily communicating with oBike. If a bike is left in the middle of a pavement or road we may have to remove it – at the moment there is no way of telling them.

"We want to enter into a dialogue with companies to agree the way bike share schemes should work in the same way that we do for car clubs," she said.

oBike aims to undercut the price of Transport for London's Santander Cycles, formerly known as Boris Bikes, which are part funded by the taxpayer.

The startup charges users a deposit of £49 with rates of 50p for a 30-minute ride.

Read more: Manchester bike-sharing firm able to track and lock cycles remotely

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