It's been just three months after the first bike-sharing company arrived in Singapore, but reports of abuse and vandalism of shared bikes in the city keep popping up on social media.
The majority of these shared bikes are stationless, which means they don't need to be docked at a designated spot. They lock themselves after your ride is over, and you're meant to just leave the bike standing by the kerb.
But users have been chaining up bicycles outside their apartments, preventing others from using them. Some people bring them up to their apartment floors, so they can't be found easily by other users looking at the app:
so many people are taking advantage of the free usage of the ofo bicycles, example, my neighbours pic.twitter.com/thcZjORG3m
— A Ż (@nrazntaazmnx) April 8, 2017
Some bikes have even been spotted flung into drains — for no apparent reason other than mischief, perhaps.
The bikes have also been stripped for parts, while some have removed the bikes' number plates or QR codes, and even painting over the bikes to remove company livery, to claim the bikes for themselves:
ofo bicycle with number plates and combination lock removed (S310236) pic.twitter.com/q1chtiICzb
— Steven Chan (@stingerx) April 15, 2017
— Audi Khalid (@AudiKhalid) April 16, 2017
Win liao lor this ofo bike thief really creative,
HAHAHA I JUST CANNOT pic.twitter.com/hdEQ2B21qa
— ☁️ (@aizooom) April 16, 2017
— DanyRifaee (@danyRifaee) April 18, 2017
Most of the abused bikes belong to either Singapore-based oBike, or Ofo, a bike-sharing giant based in China.
Despite cases of terrible behaviour, bike-sharing companies have remained unfazed, with ofo and oBike insisting to the Straits Times that they have experienced a very low rate of abuse cases.
Ofo told the Straits Times that its company does contact errant users, who end up apologising, adding that most of them believed that they could just hold on to a bicycle.
Mashable could not reach Ofo for this story. But the company has encouraged Singaporean users to report issues through a email and form link, which it posted on Facebook:
It also posted an image of a report made to the police about a viral video, which showed a man throwing an ofo bike on the ground:
dude wtf is wrong with you people? not my vid lmao pic.twitter.com/hxtDvo2fsk
— . (@hxngwei) April 16, 2017
oBike said in response to enquiries from Mashable that the number of bicycles that have been damaged constituted less than 1 percent of its fleet. The company said in February that it planned to bring in "tens of thousands" of bikes by mid-2017.
The company has yet to ban anyone from its service, but says that it would take appropriate actions — including making reports to the police.
"It's a manageable situation for us," says a spokesperson. "oBike has given stern warnings to [abusive] riders and always tries to take the approach of educating and encouraging civic-mindedness among our users."
Earlier this month, oBike also introduced a demerit system, similar to that of its competitor, China-based Mobike.
Users start with 100 points, which get taken away for errant behaviour such as forgetting to lock the bike, or parking at non-designated areas. Users are banned from using oBike when their scores reach zero.
oBike has an eight-man operations team that can remove indiscriminately parked bicycles around the city.
When approached for comment, Mobike said: "In China, just as in Singapore, there will always be a tiny minority of people who will take advantage of lax systems...We know that this is inevitable, and that is why we designed our system to prevent this type of abuse."
What a lawyer says
Priscilla Chia, a lawyer specialising in criminal and commercial law at Peter Low & Choo LLC, said that companies could deal with bad behaviour by lodging both a police report and claiming compensation.
Damaging the bikes could constitute an act of vandalism or mischief, says Chia. In Singapore, vandalism is punishable by a maximum fine of S$2,000 ($1,431) or jail term of three years or less, and men would face a minimum of three strokes of the cane. Mischief carries a sentence of not more than two years, and/or a fine.
But it could be difficult to identify who damaged a bike, Chia adds.
"For example, the video of the youth throwing the bike would probably be sufficient evidence [to prosecute]," she said. "What would be difficult is if you see the damaged bike randomly on the street... [it] would be difficult to determine who caused the damage."