This Little Company Is Trying (Very Hard) To Change The Way Malaysians Take Public Transport

Two wheels are better than four?

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This Little Company Is Trying (Very Hard) To Change The Way Malaysians Take Public Transport
Image: oBike Malaysia
Have you seen rows and rows of yellow and silver bicycles parked around the Klang Valley lately?

Have you ever wondered who would be riding those bicycles, especially in our country where it is quite rare to see people cycle to work - or rather, cycle anywhere?

Wonder no more!

The fleet of bicycles are from Singapore-based company called oBike, a station-less smart bike sharing system which was recently introduced in our country via its Malaysian counterpart oBike (M) Sdn Bhd.

Yellow bikes everywhere.Launched in April 2017, oBike Malaysia just came off their recent - and perhaps their biggest - success to date: being appointed as the official green initiative partner for the 2017 KL SEA Games! 

With the introduction of the bicycles here as well as the exposure the SEA Games gave them, the company hopes to provide efficient and sustainable means of transport to the public, while aiming to save energy and reduce carbon emission globally in the long run.

Rojak Daily spoke to oBike Malaysia Marketing Manager, Elaine Chan, to learn more about the service.

It's A Better Way To Get Around

Take your pick.Elaine firmly believes that bike-sharing is one essential way for commuters to cut their daily travelling time. After all, who doesn’t want to save time?

“It is especially advantageous for one-way first- and last-mile commuting, helping to reduce the amount of time taken for commuters to travel to or from home to the nearest bus stop, train station, or any short-distance destinations. With oBike, users have the freedom of riding a bicycle anytime, anywhere in Malaysia. 

“All processes required for bike rental are performed via the oBike app, making it a one stop technology platform that is easy for commuters to locate and return, rent and pay for the bicycle rentals,” she told us.

Elaine said that to date, there are more than 10,000 bicycles available in the country and the company hopes to provide oBike services to more states in Malaysia in the future, after launching them first in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

“We have recently launched our service in Terengganu and Johor,” she shared.

Currently, oBike bikes are located at a few places with crowd, mainly Sunway City, Damansara, Damansara Perdana, Kota Damansara, Mutiara Damansara, Jaya One, Cyberjaya, Pudu and also in Petaling Jaya areas.

It's Easy As 1,2,3

Scan and go.Elaine said that using oBike is so easy and simple that anyone with a smart phone will be able to use it. 

“To join the oBike network, users just need to download the application on Apple App Store or Google Play to register and sign-up with a mobile number or Facebook account. Then, they will be required to put in a fully refundable security deposit of RM49, or RM19 for students. 

“After that, top-up with your preferred amount to the My Wallet section of oBike app. Ride charges deducts accordingly in My Wallet. To unlock an oBike bicycle, users need to scan the QR code located on the bicycle, with the oBike app, and this is when ride charges will begin,” she said.

Elaine said that the ride charges -- RM1 for every 15 minutes -- are paid based on a prepaid or top-up method via the oBike app.

To encourage Malaysians to give oBike a try, Elaine said the company will give free rides for the first hour. The promo ends on 30 September, she said.

"From the second hour onwards, they will be charged based on the normal rate of RM1 for every 15 minutes. There is no limit to how many times oBike users can enjoy this one hour free ride promo.”

However, Elaine cautioned that there is an age appropriation when it comes to the usage of the oBike.

“oBike users must be at least 12 years old and above,” she said, adding that 40% of the users consist of tertiary students.

So, what do you do after you're done riding the bike? Elaine said returning the used bikes is also equally easy and hassle-free.

“To return a bicycle, users can park in any designated oBike parking zone, or public bicycle parking areas, and then manually lock the bicycle by pulling the lock level downwards.

“Ride charges will stop and oBike app will display a summary of the ride along with details like: total charges of the ride, ride’s distance, calorie counter and amount of carbon emissions saved,” she said.

The oBike on-ground staff would then usually relocate and rearrange the bicycles once the users have parked them at their designated spots.

Not only that, Elaine said that the company would conduct daily checks on the bicycles to ensure that they are in good condition.

“Every oBike user can report any incidents of damaged bicycles on the app. oBike will then deploy our maintenance team to collect and repair these bicycles before re-dispatching them. Our team of maintenance staff also conducts routine checks on the status and condition of our bikes around our service areas.”

Houston, We Have A Problem!

The cons of running a business.
Despite oBike’s green initiative to help Malaysians to save time and possibly burn off a few calories, reports of vandalism and misuse of the biking facility are fast emerging. In fact, according to Elaine, the company has to battle several incidents of vandalism, including several cases of bicycle theft.

This however, doesn’t deter oBike from continuing their service here and doing their bit for the society.

“oBike always tries to take the approach of educating and encouraging civic-mindedness among our users. This includes educational information via all our communication channels. We are also thankful to media's support in educating and driving public awareness for a more courteous and responsible cycling community.

“We have a credit point system in place where every user's trip is evaluated with points. The aim of the oBike Credits Scoring System is to educate and encourage positive riding behaviour, while incentivising users from improper or irresponsible riding behaviour," she pointed out, adding that users with low or negative points will be banned from the network.

Getting in trouble.
There's also the bad press that the company has been getting recently due to several unresolved issues with some local authorities.

The most recent one being the incident where the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) enforcement officers seized more than 250 bicycles found on the sidewalks and streets of Petaling Jaya for causing obstruction.

For reasons and actions like these, Elaine assured us that oBike will be working with the local authorities to come up with a proper operations guideline for a bicycle sharing platform.

Just keep cycling.
However, no matter how hard current circumstances have hit the company, oBike is more determined than ever to march on.

It will continue to serve its current 100,000 users and expand its service to many more people out there who have yet to try the service.

All it needs is just a form of acceptance.

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