The future of dockless share bikes in Australia is in doubt, with at least one company announcing it is ceasing operations here, and the future of two more is under a cloud.
Several companies have faced a backlash from local residents and councils in several capital cities.
The bright yellow and red bikes of dockless bike hire companies have been seen around the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide since they began operations in Australia about a year ago.
The schemes were controversial as many of the bikes were left abandoned on footpaths, up trees and dumped in waterways.
One Sydney council impounded dozens of them.
Now ofo has announced it is leaving Australia — and several other countries — to “focus on priority markets internationally”.
In a statement to the ABC, the company said it would “wind down operations in Adelaide and Sydney in the next 60 days” and would begin removing bikes from the streets.
Another app-based bike hire startup, Australian-owned Reddy Go has been reported to also be winding up in Australia.
Some oBike users in Australia are said to have been struggling to recover their deposits, which are paid when signing up for the bike-sharing service via the app.
FTI Consulting has been appointed provisional liquidators for oBike’s parent company in Singapore.
It said it was working with the Singaporean Government to collect bikes from around the city and to recover deposits owed to customers.
There have been as many as four bike-sharing operators in Sydney — oBike, ofo, mobike and Reddy Go.
Councils had complained their workers were left to pick up bikes and the Sydney council of Waverley impounded dozens that had been collected from public spaces.
Docked system a better way?
Mayor of Waverley John Wakefield said he was disappointed the business model seemed to have failed.
“I would have hoped that at least one bike company would have survived,” he said.
“I would like to see alternative modes of transport be available.”
Mr Wakefield said the main problem was vandalism of bikes, with the council impounding 60 unworkable bikes in just one morning.
He said inner-city councils have always argued a docked bike system would work.
“A study shows it would cost $25 million to set it up but it wouldn’t return much money,” he said.
“[So] I think if we are going to see share bikes in the future it will need to be a cooperative venture of Government and private sector.”
Mr Wakefield is hopeful the companies leaving Sydney will clean up their bikes but if not, an impounding order will be imposed.