Uproar is brewing over Petaling Jaya City Council’s (MBPJ) decision to seize more than 250 bicycles placed on the sidewalks and streets to promote a healthier living standards and a more eco-friendly transportation option.
According to various reports by national dailies today, the bicycles were seized for causing obstruction as well as being an unlicensed form of business.
The bikes belong to station-less bicycle-sharing platform company oBike (M) Sdn Bhd. The company aims to provide a platform that allows users to live more actively as well as offer a solution for connectivity between transportation hubs within urban hotspots.
Via a mobile app, users can unlock the bikes at their docking bays with a specific QR code to gain access to the facility.
Members of several communities that oBike operates in have hailed the facility as an innovative solution. Such services (by other operators) are also becoming common in key urban centres nationwide, such as Nusajaya in Johor and the tourist hub of Malacca.
As such, MBPJ’s move to confiscate the bicycles has confounded many and invited criticism about the city council not being proactive and supportive enough about a positive addition the landscape.
Part of the discontent is rooted in the fact that the oBike app has rapidly become popular, with more than 20,000 users who are charged RM1 every 15 minutes. Also, 40% of the users are tertiary students who have need for such cost-effective transport solutions.
MBPJ has stated, however, that there are a few issues with the service in its current form, which has led to the enforcement action. For one, users are told to return the bicycle by parking it at any public space closest to them, which is causing obstruction along sidewalks.
Another reason the bikes were seized is because the business is unlicensed and therefore deemed an unlawful operation, said MBPJ.
“We are in support of this idea as it is another mode of public transportation and will benefit pedestrians in the city, but it has to be properly regulated,” Petaling Jaya mayor Datuk Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain was quoted as saying in a prominent national daily.
Even so, denizens of PJ are questioning the need of such harsh tactics against a positive public utility. Many of them have also become dependent on the facility, and were surprised to see it removed without warning. Currently, enforcement officers are still actively seizing the bicycles.
It also turns out that no proper regulations have been specifically written for bicycle sharing operations in Petling Jaya but MBPJ was looking at drafting it. This raises questions about why the situation is being treated as being illegal.
The management oBike said the company was aware its bicycles were being seized and was working with MBPJ to solve the issue.
According to them, oBikes is already in talks with MBPJ on how to work together. It is treating the situation as a “misunderstanding”, it said, as there is currently no proper channel to gain licencing for bicycle sharing platforms.
As it is a relatively new form of service on our landscape, most councils do not have existing regulations, but other councils (such as the Subang Jaya Municipal Council) have been more accommodating allowing oBikes to operate based on a letter of approval.
The company said it hopes to reach a similar type of agreement with MBPJ soon.