oBike hasn’t exactly had smooth sailing from the start even in their home ground of Singapore but this bike-sharing startup has not let that string of misuse deter them.
One update to their bikes later, the team has pedaled forward into 11 other countries–London is the newest city added to their chain of locations.
Before making their way up north of the equator, oBike wheelied into the nation next door right here in Malaysia.
They first set up near train stations to encourage users to bike for the last leg of their journey instead of walking.
We’ve made some predictions about how they’ll do in Malaysia, and unlike the temperatures here, we thought that the outlook wasn’t too sunny for oBike.
Despite what we thought, oBike has been relentless in their expansion. In the months since oBike made their way here, we’ve been seeing yellow everywhere we turned in Klang Valley.
So to sate our curiosity, we got in touch with Elaine from the oBike Malaysia team to find out how things are going locally.
In brief: oBike’s been very busy.
“We are currently focused on gaining market share and encouraging the use of bicycles as a first and last mile transport solution. We hope to see Malaysia develop into a car-lite society to ease traffic congestion,” said Elaine.
Contrary to some of the rumours, Elaine assured us that the bikes here in Malaysia are not just extras sourced from Singapore. They have their “own supply for the Malaysian market“.
According to Elaine, since their launch in April, they’ve achieved more than 20,000 sign-ups and this number is growing on a weekly basis.
When I concluded my experiments in May, the oBike I left in the streets of Taipan was the only oBike around the area. Now, you can see a few bikes popping up now and again.
Besides train stations, oBike has expanded their coverage to areas like Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya, Klang Valley universities, like Taylor’s Lakeside as well as Sunway University and both Cyberjaya and Putrajaya.
“Our main focus is still in Selangor and Klang Valley. Our aim is to provide sufficient supply of oBike bicycles to cater to the demand, as well as to place our bikes in areas of convenience to our users,” said Elaine.
Other than that, it’s just been a lot of marketing and education on their end.
Bike-sharing isn’t a very “known” concept in Malaysia, so they have to grind through a lot of education and marketing to bring awareness up.
So when they choose an area, this 40-strong team do so with an education plan already in mind.
“We usually do a lot of online activities, and we also usually have a team of oBike ambassadors going around telling them about oBikes and what this is about. I think the face-to-face engagement is really important,” said Elaine.
“We already have a lot of partners coming aboard, and the collaboration is the main contribution to how we approach bicycle-sharing.”
They’ve also been talking it out with local authorities.
We’ve noted before that the lack of an interconnected bike system here in Malaysia might hinder them from growing as fast as they might like.
It seems that oBike agrees with this notion, because they’ve been in talks with a few local authorities and municipalities in Klang Valley to get the ball rolling.
“We’ve already gotten MPSJ’s approval to run trials in certain areas. Other than that, we’re still in talks with the other councils.”
During oBike’s inaugural run in Singapore, they were faced with irresponsible riders who go about destroying bikes seemingly for the lulz.
We wondered if this was an occurrence in Malaysia, so we extended the question to oBike.
Have the bikes been damaged here in Malaysia?
According to Elaine, “There are such cases, but the number is minimal and manageable for us. We will continue to emphasise on our educational information to encourage positive usage and behaviour.”
“We have also rolled out the oBike Credit Point System, where each oBike trip taken by users is evaluated with points. For instance, a user completing a normal ride will receive 2 points. If a user has been reported for damaging the bike, points would be deducted.”
“Users can look forward to enjoying lower rates when they ride with us with higher accumulated points. Lower points will result in higher ride charges, and users with zero points will be banned from the oBike network.
But it’s not just about customers.
oBike’s been busy getting recognition too. One of the latest developments from the Malaysian side is their memorandum of understanding with Eco World, where they’ll be providing bikes for all of Eco World’s projects.
Datuk Chang Khim Wah, CEO of Eco World Development has a world of belief for bike-sharing.
“We noticed that cycling is gaining momentum as it helps reduce traffic and carbon emission while promoting a healthy lifestyle as it’s a great way to lose weight, socialise and reduce stress.”
“With oBikes in our developments, we are able to expand our reach to more people and further encourage them to take up cycling.
On top of that, oBike is also the Green Initiative Partner for SEA Games Kuala Lumpur.
We’re not quite sure that we’ve seen biking culture take root here in Malaysia quite just yet. The bikes are around, but it’s still a novelty to unlocking the bike on the app and riding away to cycleable distances.
There also hasn’t been any news of competing bike-sharing companies trying to wheel into Malaysia yet. According to Elaine, they’re used to being the introduction to bike-sharing in more than one country.
“As the infrastructure develops to accommodate a larger cycling community through the government’s push for a car-lite society, the likelihood of more people adopting cycling as a mode of transportation will be higher.”
“We hope that to contribute towards Malaysia’s vision of a model car-lite urban city,” concluded Elaine.
Feature Image Credit: oBike