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OBike Refund in Singapore, Australia, and Malaysia (obikerefund.livejournal.com)
130 points by brisance on July 2, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 81 comments

I think it's becoming clear that (a) bike sharing is good to have in a city. People want it. (b) neither an all public or an all private system can work as well as we'd like it to.

The "all public" system means a municipality contracts a single vendor (or owns it) to build all the stations and manage everything. This is what we have where I live, dublin. It's a stagnant system. They don't add stations. Problems with stations being full/empty at certain times of the day persist indefinitely. Basically, you can feel the lack of competition.

The all private system (like they have in China) is more innovative. They use technology better. You can feel the existence of competition. It's more scalable with bikes, rides and users increasing all the time.

But... It makes a mess. Bikes everywhere. Companies can go bust, can chase market cap & investment. Mostly, bikes end up abandoned all over the place.

This is fixable, for a local municipality that's willing to get clever and design a market. Create infrastructure, mostly it's the stations or the ability to rent space for them. Make rules, but not too many. Let competition happen within parameters.

OBike dumped some 800 bikes in Zurich without asking, or telling creating a huge mess.

The problem with those bikes, apart from the fact that they look atrociously is that the quality is so bad to make them borderline unusable.

I have hardly seen them in use, but there are a lot of those bikes lying around broken. There is no customer service, whatsoever and no point of contact. Aparently the manager they put in place for Switzerland left some month ago.

Add to all this that according to C'T they are a massive privacy violator with all the data they suck about their renters.

Lime Bike seems to fare a bit better, alas the bikes are of better quality.

According to press reports they should be collected and removed. Reading about the shenanigans of that company probably at the tax payers dime.

With that method, dump a shitton of crap bikes on a city and let them fend for themselves, OBike created a hellishly hostile territory for the dockless bike sharing concept.

Lots of reasons to dump on oBike. Their recent 'coin' public funding scheme was a fraud apparently - the money disappeared, investors are feeling cheated. Unsurprised to hear they polluted a river with the junk bikes, seems like a pattern.

I asked as a comment to original post already [1], how are the ICOs and oBike directly connected? I didn't really understand that :/

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17440730

In London, we have both systems. Santander Cycles, aka "Boris Bikes" which is operated by the city, as well as ofo, mobike, and (until recently?) obike. The later operate with the blessing of local councils, and are required to designate certain areas as "no parking" etc.

Advantage of Boris Bikes: bigger, better quality bikes which tend to be better maintained. Usually no trouble finding docking stations with available bikes within the service area.

Disadvantages: Limited service area. High cost of building docking stations means that expansion is slow.

Advantages of ofo/mobike: Typically (but not always) cheaper. Can park bikes (more or less) anywhere you like. Much bigger service area.

Disadvantages: Relatively crappy bikes, not fun to ride over longer distances. Not always easy to find a bike, and you might have to flip between apps to find one.

You say "you can feel the lack of competition", but Dublin bikes are 20EUR for a year. The issue isn't competition.

OBike is also pulling all 600 bikes out of Zürich, Switzerland but there was no reason given, just that OBike will pay for the removal. [1]

[1] https://www.nzz.ch/zuerich/veloverleih-in-zuerich-o-bike-zie...

Given their overall behavior I believe it when I see it that they'll pay for the removal.

To me they seem like a totally dodgy company (which is consistent with the blog post).

As someone who is not familiar with oBike or the situation, could someone clue me in as to what happened?

My guess is that the company signed up a bunch of people, took a sizeable deposit from all of them, and then cut and run? Where does the ICO (or ICOs) come into the picture?

Bike sharing company in Singapore. Initially collected a S$49 to use its service. With the deposit paid you were entitled to rent their bikes at S$0.5/15min.

Bike were almost everywhere. Initially they had lots of free ride promotions.

A few days ago, they claimed that they ceased operations due to newly imposed government restrictions. (To prevent bikes from lying/standing around just about everywhere and have them be rented/returned at designated parking areas)

A while ago I think they dropped the deposit requirement, as other competitors did not have the deposit requirement. You could ask for your deposit to be returned. This would take up to 30days, but apparently took much longer, according to some comments on Facebook.

They also offered a VIP subscription for 3years or so for S$49, which would entitle you to a certain amount of free rides per month, I think.

All in all, I don’t know how I feel about my deposit. I’m pretty sure it’s gone. On the other hand I’ve used the bikes a few times with all the “free”/promotional rides, without giving them any additional money. After all I got some value for the S$49. Did I ride for 25hs in total? I doubt it.

I guess the ICO stuff is just trying to draw a parallel defrauding scheme?

One of the problem was that they automatically and without customer consent converted the deposits to VIP subscriptions.

[Edit] Also this whole concept of dockless bikes is very unsightly. Singapore has changed the law to have the companies pay for the bike removal.

  Bike sharing company in Singapore. Initially collected a S$49 to use its service. 
In Zurich they initially charged a deposit of CHF 150 (later halved). That comes to S$206 and is probably three times the amount of what those atrocities are worth.

Right! A bike was cheaper than that 'service'. It made no sense.

S$49 is I guess not that big a loss for a bicycle, buying one yourself is probably more expensive.

What happens to the bikes then? I can imagine they're being stored left and right now.

I haven't tried oBike as I am already customer of two other bike rental schemes in my town (Munich) but from what I see when looking at those and from reports they are really bad in quality and comfort.

As an example here a (German) video comparing oBike and a "normal" bike rolling down a small hill: https://youtu.be/9bTnwJc5gzc

There are probably better ways to spend those bucks.

S$49 is around 30€.

German c't magazine did a review of various rental bikes in Germany and found OBike to be the worst by far. They also got their hands on an offer for their bikes. Apparently these bikes cost 69€ (S$112) if you buy 1000 of them.

They were notorious for dumping bikes all over Melbourne, Australia. A city that takes its liveability seriously.

Eventually the government told oBike they would be given a $3,000 fine for every bike in violation, which is obviously far more than the small cost of the bike itself.

They left soon afterwards.


Looking at aerial photography of Melbourne, it there are an awful lot of cars for a city that takes its liveability seriously. I can't imagine that bikes were taking MORE space than the cars?

Melbourne has the world's largest tram network. It has a massive train 869km train network too, plus current construction of a new $10 billion tunnel in the city center.

Cars are allowed in the city center, but they are mostly commercial vehicles (taxis, delivery drivers, construction, etc).

Most people use public transport to commute to and from work.

Many bike share schemes have been tried, but are not popular in Melbourne because trams are free and bicycles require helmets by law.

> Cars are allowed in the city center, but they are mostly commercial vehicles

This is not true at all, a ridiculous number of people drive to work and park in the city. Over 60% of all traffic is private cars.

They also get dumped every where. The oBikes look awful too. Ofo bikes are of a reasonable quality but obikes on the other hand have never tempted me to use them.

...bicycles require helmets by law.

So much for taking livability seriously.

Helmets are for those who take livability seriously!

I grew up in Melbourne. I've worn bike helmets since I was a kid. They have been compulsory since 1990. It's not a big deal. Everyone knows it is just common sense, just like wearing seatbelts in a car.

Over the years, I have had bike crashes and hit my head on the road three times. The one time I was seriously injured was in Amsterdam, where no one wears helmets. My front wheel jammed and I fell over the handlebars face-first onto the road. I had to go to hospital for stitches. I was very, very lucky I didn't end up brain-damaged.

Helmets reduce serious brain trauma by 50-60%. That's well worth the small inconvenience for me.

I'm Australian so wearing a helmet is second nature to me, but the benefits, especially around mandatory helmet laws, are apparently quite debatable.

Importantly, requiring helmets deters many normal people from biking in the first place — in Australia, bike commuting rates plummeted when mandatory helmet laws went into effect

While it's obvious that wearing a helmet reduces damage if you're in an accident, there's studies suggesting that wearing a helmet makes you more likely to be in an accident in the first place - car drivers drive more dangerously around helmeted riders, and helmeted riders ride more dangerously.

It's all very interested and not as straight forward as I (or maybe you) would have thought.

Studies and factions mentioned are from here: https://www.vox.com/2014/5/16/5720762/stop-forcing-people-to...

I hated the concept of bike helmets, which are not mandated here.

After having had three falls and having been very lucky I totally reversed that sentiment and always wear a helmet now.

It may be less freewheeling and comfortable. But I figured that maybe next time I'm less lucky, so it's definitely worth it.

I didn't wear a helmet when renting a bike in Japan. But I've seen nobody wear a helmet there.

I suspect this is one of those things people just won’t agree on. On the one hand there are those who argue it’s common sense safety and a proper matter for laws. On the other there are those arguing it’s wholly unnecessary (look at Amsterdam!) and requiring it will make fewer people cycle especially in the case of bike shares.

Having lived in both Melbourne and Amsterdam, the two crucial differences are in the Netherlands:

1) almost all Dutch drivers are also cyclists. They know how bikes behave, how it feels to be a cyclist around cars, and are therefore far more conscientious of bikes

2) in an accident involving a car and a bike, Dutch road laws have a high presumption that the car is at fault.

In Amsterdam, I don't worry about a car running me over. In London and Melbourne I do, and so never ride there without a helmet.

> Helmets reduce serious brain trauma by 50-60%.

When? In what specific situation?

He cited evidence from the University of Bath that suggests that wearing a helmet may even put cyclists at greater risk. The research showed that drivers get around 3 inches closer to cyclists who wear helmets because they perceive them as safer. [0]

So it sounds like you're more likely to get hit when you wear a helmet, that can't be safe. Why don't cyclists wear a proper fitting motorcycle helmet if helmets are safer?

One thing that does correlate -- the more cyclists there are, the fewer accidents per mile. [1]

Something else that may be uncomfortable reading, Australian helmet laws reduce levels of cycling [2] (and explain why cycle hire schemes in Melbourne don't work).

The scheme, which is costing taxpayers $5.5 million over four years, has been crippled by Melbourne's compulsory helmet laws. Bike share schemes are established in 135 cities around the world, but Melbourne's is the only one operating under such strict laws. [3]

If more cyclists is good (and I'd argue it is - as it means fewer drivers, and has the crowd benefit), you need to get rid of these helmet laws - they do more harm than good [4]

[0] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10866273/Cycle-... [1] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/may/07/cycling... [2] https://theconversation.com/australian-cycling-boom-nope-its... [3] https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/a-new-helmet-to-... [4] https://theconversation.com/make-helmets-optional-to-double-...

As far as I know that's an Australia-wide thing. It's certainly the same in Queensland.

Helmets are $5 in Melbourne, people still won’t wear them.

Cyclists won't wear helmets because cycling doesn't require helmets. Imposing helmets by law is a way to reduce cycling, and those who write those regulations know it.

Are you making the argument that bicycle helmets are ineffective or that people should be free to choose for themselves what risks they are willing to take? The former is a dubious claim and the latter is likely a fringe position.

Given that, suggesting that helmet laws are a plot to reduce cycling puts you firmly in conspiracy theory territory in my book.

In any particular collision, a helmeted brain is more protected than a non-helmeted brain, although because of factors like risk compensation and the effect of overall cycling frequency on road safety that is completely beside the point.

Of course adults should be free to choose for themselves what risks they are willing to take. The relevant populations are at so much lower risk for any number of misfortunes than their ancestors that helmet fans' pearl-clutching on their behalf is completely misplaced. But this too is beside the point.

Try reading my two sentences again, this time without your "conspiracy everywhere" glasses. The following propositions, which comprise the entirety of that post, are all literally true: "cycling doesn't require helmets", "helmet laws reduce cycling", "those who write helmet laws know that helmet laws reduce cycling". Every study of the effect of helmet laws shows that they reduce cycling. There might be some dangerously uninformed people writing cycling regulations, but most will have seen the relevant studies.

> Of course adults should be free to choose for themselves what risks they are willing to take.

It's not universally the case though (see: drugs, seatbelts), and if you think it should be, you're in a small minority with that opinion. I think it's fair to consider externalities and then make laws that strike a nice balance between individual and collective interests. Bicycle helmets are a very small inconvenience, so i find it entirely appropriate to make them mandatory.

> "those who write helmet laws know that helmet laws reduce cycling"

Right, but that doesn't mean it's their motivation. That assumption, given that there are other prohibitions on dangerous behaviour, is a conspiracy theory.

...you're in a small minority with that opinion.

Maybe in your community I would be? Where I live, it would be hard to find anyone who didn't feel adults should take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. I really don't understand this compulsion to measure oneself against the herd, however. "Oh no some randoms I've never met might disagree with me!" Why would I care about that? Perhaps you're not so experienced with reasoned discussion, but "that's fringe" and "that's conspiracy" are not really arguments. By focusing on these propositions you've conceded the factual claims I've made, which by themselves really settle the question of whether helmets ought to be mandatory for cycling.

That assumption... is a conspiracy theory.

I haven't made such an assumption. I would still question the opposite assumption, however. Are you certain that no one values the primacy of the automobile in traffic?

> Where I live, it would be hard to find anyone who didn't feel adults should take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.

This is a very general statement and probably won't hold up in a number of specific cases, such as the total legalisation of the drug trade. But i do believe that "people" (as in: the majority) draw that line in a culture specific way and it appears that the US leans more towards personal freedom than the rest of "the west".

However, this discussion was about laws in Australia. I think it's reasonable to assume that the laws reflect the majority opinion. Now i'm not discounting fringe opinions in general and i certainly don't think the majority is always right. But in this case it's relevant because it offers a much simpler explanation for why helmet laws exist: because people living in those jurisdictions overwhelmingly want them.

Let me turn the argument around to illustrate: Not wearing helmets increases head injuries, and the people in power know that. Having a pro-helmet-law stance, it would make sense to see a conspiracy between lawmakers and health care providers (more brain damaged people, more revenue!). It seems much more reasonable to assume that places without helmet laws don't have them because people living there draw the line between personal freedoms and collective interests differently.

> I haven't made such an assumption.

Well, you wrote "Imposing helmets by law is a way to reduce cycling" and i really can't parse it any other way than to mean that the sole (or at least main) motivation for helmet laws is to reduce cycling. I stand by my words.

I don’t think it’s at all a fringe position that adults should have considerable latitude about personal safety choices. That said not everyone agrees with that and that, rather than reducing cycling, is the impetus behind helmet laws.

There's also the part of the equation that while decided to wear a helmet is a personal choice, the negative impacts affect the taxpayer in Australia due to having a reasonably good public health system.

There are certainly externalities to individual health and safety decisions. I find prohibiting “dangerous” activities (how about rock climbing? Say) a pretty slippery slope.

Wouldn't it follow then that all drugs, even the potent opiates, should be legal to produce, sell and consume? I know some people think that way, but it's a fringe position.

It's crazy, I saw a pedestrian walking down the street the other way, didn't have a helmet on. It's like she had a death wish.

Somewhat related to this, "lane filtering" on motorbikes is also legal in Melbourne.

That helps converting some car users to motorbikes or scooters instead, as driving to work is generally much faster than in a car (for Melbourne traffic anyway).

I wish they would legalize this in the US too (outside of just California). It makes it much safer for the rider to lane filter during rush hour than sitting in congestion.

> A city that takes its liveability seriously.

Not sure I can take that seriously seeing how much Melbourne favours cars and is spending billions building more roads.

oBike stops operations in Singapore, cites difficulties meeting new LTA regulations:


They seem to be working on refund now:


In kuala lumpur I was able to ride one of these. The experience to open one of them was easy. No card required. The bike app still showed 0min after 2 hours of biking. No deposit required.

The problem come when I wanted to lock the bike and finish the trip. It wouldn’t allow me to lock the bike. The app didn’t recognize the parking location and alerted to bring the bike to a one.

I ended up putting it somewhere on the streets unlocked. Anyone could have made use of it.

In Australia, oBikes were often thrown in to trees and rivers. They've left Melbourne. [0]

[0] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-12/obike-dockless-bicycle...

Our building in Vienna Austria became a dump for those bikes. They keep putting there on our bike stands but the bikes there are so broken that nobody uses them.

We have a bike sharing system in my city, but one must always return the bike to an automated bike rental station where the bike is locked. This is how it works in London as well AFAIK. A bike left just somewhere is a violation of the service terms and a penalty comparable to the fine for riding public transport without a ticket is charged from your credit card.

I can understand why bike rental system without proper stations where the bikes are stored would be considered corporate littering.

Vienna has docked bikes as well but almost entitely in the inner districts.

They have very cheap brakes that are designed in a way so that they are always slightly braking.

Which is terrible, obviously.

oBike was also troublesome here in Switzerland. People just left them left and right wherever they pleased.

That's kind of the idea I guess, find a bike and you can ride it. But that's too socialist, no money to be made in that, and a lot of trashed bikes everywhere.

I can tell you haven't tried, because otherwise you'd mention the €79 deposit and that they felt like riding a home trainer.

I think it was a scam. The idea was to take people's deposits and then declare bankruptcy.

€79 deposit for a €69 bike (according to c't magazine)

Socialism is defined as "a range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production as well as the political theories and movements associated with them."

What does "ownership and democratic control of the means of production" have to do with littering bikes on the sidewalk?

I've seen these bikes in some crazy places. There seems to be a minority of people who take joy in leaving them in not so easy to reach places.

2 examples I've seen.

- In the middle of a forest with at least 2KM of trail before the bike could be reached.

- Inside a secure defence facility.

> Inside a secure defence facility.

In theory, identifying who left it there should be feasible.

That may mean asking the defence facility people nicely (letters and bureaucracy, etc).

For some context, here is a reply of the accused / singled out person on their Twitter account:

> Some fake news circulating around lately, to clarify: 1. I'm a shareholder of oBike, owning 23.58% stake, my title has always been Founding Investor&Chairman in that company 2. Avazu was founded by me sorely, my grandparents are 80+ and can't even handle computers

> 3. oBike Singapore has been shut down due to economics, the decision was made among all shareholders, no need to generalize/personalize 4. oBike has no intention or need to run away with deposit, instead the company is proactively looking for a solution with the related parties

> 5. I'm an investor and shareholder in 100+ startups and companies globally, I'm also the direct founder of DotC United Group, some of these ventures cooperate with other block chain companies, that doesn't mean all these companies belong to me.


We will know when the deposits are returned back. Let's see if the company run away again legally with people's deposit. Given people waiting for deposit return, it's a clear sign of fraud. Removing the deposit option from mobile app is a direct indication of that intention. Crypto currency is not protected investment, but the financial deposit taken in fiat currency should be, not sure if Singapore govt will protect the poor depositors who may loose their money and this guy will still continue to keep raking in money with Ponzi crypto schemes.

It appears [0] that the deposit is "up to" $49 Singaporean Dollars or about $35 US Dollars

[0]: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/obike-working...

It was SGD19 for students or SGD49 for anyone else.

Maybe it's time for a raw materials recycling startup. Cruise around the city with a van, pick up bikes, and sell them for scrap.

This is how cities handle abandoned vehicles (sort of). While bikes don't have us much recyclable material in them, they don't cost as much to pick up.

It looks like there is only a couple million $$ of paid up share capital in the paper trail. How did they finance purchase of so many oBikes?

There’s a screenshot showing bikes selling for $199 RMB ($30USD) in China. With a $49SGD ($36USD) deposit they could afford to buy one for every user and still have cash left over.

I’m aware that they’re low cost, they’re everywhere in sydney. I guess I just am trying to look at the unit economics and reverse engineer the business fundamentals. The bikes came before the users, and i guess even with a couple thousand (probably high end numbers now I think about it) bikes in sydney, Melbourne and then 10s is thousands (if that) in Singapore they could do it with a small capital base, especially with almost no support on the labour side.

Then again they ended up having to spend a lot of money in Melbourne cleaning them up which would have buggered their modelling.

Bottom line of my comment above: the bikes has to come first with a reasonable lead time before the deposit. I see now that they could have borrowed against it as well but it doesn’t look like they had large inflows of PE or VC money?

> I’m aware that they’re low cost, they’re everywhere in sydney. I guess I just am trying to look at the unit economics and reverse engineer the business fundamentals.

It's also possible they overestimated the real world demand for using these bikes as well. From the article, it sounds like the main people involved are from cities with a very significant bicycle using populace.

They may have thought they'd be introducing that culture elsewhere, and be on the "ground floor" (pun intended). ;)

That they went with bikes so crap that no one wants to use them, sounds like very poor research / product planning. :/

Subsequent reported problems all seem to stem from that.

That's not taking the shonky sounds bits into account though, which may have become their plan B. Or been the real plan all along, of course. :)

I can't find it now, but I remember reading that oBike dumped 6,000 bikes in Sydney.

From what I saw while trying to ride these bikes, I would bet that each bike costs less than 80$ to manufacture. They are very low quality, with no gears. It might be even lower than that. My guess is that the electronic is the most expensive part.

Hop a curb (cleanly) and bits fall off too. I’m pretty sure that some of these services make good money from fines too, for things like innappropriate parking. It’s sometimes hard to park them within the correct zones as the GPS coordinates it says you left the bike at are not accurate, leading to penalties.

What's the connection between oBike and the ICOs (besides Yi Shi beeing involved in both)?

Until these companies work out how to manage the squishy bit that sits on them, the issues are only going to escalate - glorified litter the way some users leave them.

"Only in August 2017 had oBike pulled off one of the largest series B rounds on record in Southeast Asia to raise US$45 million from a venture capital firm linked to a co-founder of Russia’s Mail.Ru Group a mysterious “leading global transportation platform” and several unnamed family offices in Southeast Asia. "

1. I bet they got payed off, or they got their money laundered in some other way?

2. So many Chinese companies seem to go out of their way to be fraudulent; I don't have much sympathy for investors anymore.

3. There used to be Investment Guys out there trying to expose shady Chinese companies, companies like NQ mobile, but I just don't hear much from them. I guess they figure if you invest with shady entities, don't expect your money back?

4. I love the back stories on these boy geniuses. Just lie until you thrive?

obike shut down? I remember they were all over Amsterdam last year

I’m pretty sure it’s not legal to shut down one subsidary and not return the deposits if the rest of the company continues operating.

In general, aren't the stock owners (the parent companies) non-liable for the operations of the limited-liability corporation (the subsidiary)?

Most countries have a form of "Piercing the corporate veil" so that companies cannot just make subsidaries default nilly willy without any repercussions. And that even assumes that obike Singapore declared bankruptcy. In central Europe for sure you cannot even use deposits to satisfy creditors unless the deposit was made after the moment of insolvency.

I have never heard deposits not being paid back if a company ceases operation by leaving a market.

Depends on what company did receive the money and is a party in your contract. It might not be the subsidiary.

I just got back from Portland Oregon and used biketownpdx.com several times, it was fine. The only issue was that the bikes were heavy. $20/mo for daily usage was great.

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