The recent spread of dockless bikes in Melbourne and Sydney is turning into a catastrophe of gargantuan proportion. The streets of both cities are getting littered with two-wheeled, GPS Dockless Bikes. Criminals are further deteriorating the problem. They are disabling the GPS trackers and selling the bikes online.
The dockless bikes seemed like a great solution to the congestion problem in Australia. In China and Singapore, the idea had already had some success. So the assumption was that it would work in Australia too. However, it didn’t turn out well. A number of damaged bikes started to show up on the sidewalks, at the bottom of the lakes, and even on top of trees.
The unique proposition of Bikes with tracking was that they were supposed to be left everywhere. Customers who paid the membership fee could use the mobile app to find and unlock the two-wheeled vehicles easily. There was no need for a docking station. It was supposed to make bike sharing seamless. But the damaged, GPS bikes are showing up on every corner of Melbourne and Sydney. It has started to make the cities look visually unpleasant. A lot of the citizens are unhappy. They want to get rid of the monstrosities. The anger might explain how the bikes are ending up on top of the trees or at the bottom of the lakes.
The Waverley Council has announced that it will start impounding the bikes in Sydney’s eastern suburb. The companies behind the bikes will have to pay a fee in order to get them. If they are not claimed, the city will recycle them.
The dockless bike companies make money from two methods. They have a membership fee and they charge by the hour. However, considering the small amount of money charged for renting the bicycles and the amount of damaged caused by the vandals and criminals, it is highly unlikely that the rent model is making enough money for these companies.
A more valuable business would be selling the data collected for the 10,000+ oBike app downloads and the GPS tracking devices on the bikes. When this information is used with taxi and public transport information, it can provide a better roadmap for the future. Third-party companies can purchase this information from oBike or ReddyGo and use it for urban development and marketing.
Another source of income for these bike companies could be the membership fees. Even though the membership fees are refundable, the companies are sitting on a large chunk of cash and they can use this money to earn interest income.
The situation with GPS-Disabled Dockless Bikes seems unfortunate. The whole endeavor started with good intentions. But it has turned into a debacle. The criminal element has added an extra bit of malice to it. It has become a PR nightmare for the businesses attached to them. People are so irritated by the bikes that even those who still believe in the idea are afraid to use them. Nobody wants to get dirty looks for riding these bikes.