Nowadays, whenever “bus 11” is too long a route, Uber or Grab too costly a ride, or public transport too humdrum a journey, getting a lift with the help of an oBike, Mobike or ofo is considered the next best option.
Over a span of a year, around a hundred thousand of these orange, yellow and silver shared two-wheelers have dotted our island. Ignoring their presence is without a doubt impossible. Besides their ubiquity, bike sharing has become immensely popular and many Singaporeans have embraced this mode of transport to aid them in getting from point A to point B. The Singapore-based oBike currently boasts over a million active users in Singapore since rolling out their first fleet in January last year.
Now, imagine you are one of these avid users. You have chosen to ride a shared bicycle and have whipped out your phone to find one. Looking at the app, you see a few parked near you. Yet, upon looking up to visually locate them, these colourful bicycles are nowhere in sight. Convinced it wouldn’t be an error on the part of the app, you search high and low, determined to find that trusty sidekick of yours to bring you home.
Just then, out of the corner of your eye, something glistening from the canal beside you catches your attention. Peering over for a closer look, you stop and stand in shock. Guess what? To your utter dismay, your trusty sidekick is in the canal silently crying out for help.
This was precisely what I had encountered on my way home from East Coast Park. Not one, but three of these bicycles, lay motionless underwater in the canal just beside the Victoria Junior College compound. You may have already heard of such cases hitting the headlines last year, but to have witnessed it first hand was unbelievable on a whole new level.
I was beyond disgusted by this inconsiderate and reckless act. Whoever had come up with the idea to dump these bicycles into the canal without a second thought was uncouth and selfish at the same time. No matter the reason this person were to give to defend himself if he were to get caught, this act of vandalism is unacceptable.
Why inconvenience other users who are in need of a bike just for your own convenience?
Why bother the workers who have to clean up the mess you’ve left behind just for that one act of recklessness?
Why trouble the bike-sharing operators who have to take the blame and face heavy penalties again and again?
This person might feel fortunate at first that his face was not caught on camera and circulated on social media unlike in other prior cases. Unfortunately, with or without being exposed, he too would also have to carry the guilt and shame on his shoulders in the long road ahead.
Although seeing shared bicycles being dumped in the unlikeliest of places was a first for me, seeing damaged or indiscriminately parked bicycles is not new at all. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for me to see at least one shared bicycle under my block with a broken chain or without a seat, a tyre or pedals. Bikes being littered around an area or blocking footpaths has also become an everyday sight for me whenever I am outside. These not only have become an eyesore, but is also a disgrace to the thriving bike-sharing community as well as the gracious society Singapore is known for.
I do understand that the inconsiderate individuals only make up a tiny fraction of the entire population. Many of us love the idea of bike-sharing and enjoy using the bicycles provided. Many of us handle these bicycles with care and park them in the designated parking spaces. Yet, even if we continue to do so, the actions made by these individuals will still be the ones that would garner widespread attention and ultimately cast a negative light on the community and society as a whole.
In order to address this, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) proposed implementing a licensing regime for bike-sharing operators, whereby a maximum number of active mobility devices an operator can own will be set and operators must remove indiscriminately parked bikes within a specific time or risk facing sanctions.
However, we cannot just let the bike-sharing operators shoulder the responsibility of any wrongdoings made by fellow users. Doing so doesn’t guarantee that the inconsiderate individuals will stop damaging or dumping bikes. Hence, public education on proper cycling etiquette is key in ensuring that bike-sharing continues to be embraced as a feasible mode of transport in Singapore.
We, as users, have a significant role to play as well in putting an end to these problems and not letting the inconsiderate individuals gain the upper hand. Rather than merely frowning on such behaviour or posting the evidence on social media platforms, there is much more that we can do.
If we catch someone who has callously disposed of or about to damage a shared bike, we can politely remind them of the consequences of their actions. If we see someone inappropriately parking the bike, we can step forward and kindly instruct them to park the bikes in the designated spaces. Even if these inconsiderate individuals are nowhere in sight but there are haphazardly parked bikes around us, it is our duty to arrange these bikes where they ought to be and in a neat manner.
These deeds might seem trivial, but as long as we make a conscious effort to perform them whenever the need arises, they will go a long way in creating a more friendly and attractive bike-sharing culture we can all embrace.
James Tan Shi An, 17S51