Hundreds of smart bicycles for rental service were put into use in China's Hong Kong on Thursday, allowing users to rent and return bikes conveniently through a mobile phone app.
The service, named Gobee.bike, became Hong Kong's first bike-sharing system that allows riders to locate the nearest bicycles through an active map in a mobile application, rent them by scanning a QR code on the bike, and spare the trouble of returning them to fixed stations.
The bright green bikes are equipped with GPS, a basket,a smart light for night rides, and an integrated alarm system to prevent theft. Registering their credit card and paying a deposit of 399 HK dollars (about 51 U.S. dollars), riders can start to use this service at a cost of 5 HK dollars per half an hour.
The service provider, a locally-based startup company, aims at spreading out over 1,000 smart bicycles across several bike-friendly locations in the New Territories within this week, and bringing up this number to 20,000 by July. It also expects to cover most of Hong Kong, including the more crowded areas of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, by the end of this year.
The company said on its website that the system's goal is to "bring smart bike-sharing to everyone as a last mile solution in densely populated areas", as well as to provide an "environmentally-friendly alternative" and a "healthier and greener lifestyle".
According to its CEO and co-founder Raphael Cohen, the service can also be a solution for people with limited living space to store their own bikes. The cloud-based system is currently only accessible on Android phones, and the service provider is working on extending the availability to iOS users.
Hong Kong Cycling Alliance said in a statement that it "welcomed unreservedly" the launch of bike-sharing service in Hong Kong. "Since Asia's first bike share programmes were opened in China in 2009, following earlier schemes in Europe, many people have recognised Hong Kong's potential for similar services," the organization said, adding that it expected bike sharing to be "an especial boon" in the urban areas.
However, some local media questioned that in some parts of Hong Kong that is densely populated with limited lands, there is no bicycle lanes on the road, and it may be difficult to find a proper place to park the bicycles. Cohen responded that his company has discussed with relevant government agencies over the issue of parking.