Straits Times: oBike’s bicycle removal in progress as deadline nears

Written by admin | July 19, 2018

Straits Times, 19 July 2018

By Zhaki Abdullah

Bike-sharing firm oBike’s two-wheelers continue to be cleared from the streets here, two weeks ahead of the deadline.

Ang Mo Kio Town Council chairman Ang Hin Kee said more than 60 per cent of the oBikes in his area have been removed.

This includes those in an open field in Fernvale, where about 200 oBikes collected by the town council could be found earlier this month.

Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council chairman Zainal Sapari has seen a significant decrease in the number of oBikes.

Jurong-Clementi Town Council chairman Ang Wei Neng, however, said the removal of oBikes has been slow in his area.

“We still have more than 2,000 oBike bicycles in the Jurong-Clementi area,” he said.

Chinese-founded oBike – which closed last month after launching in Singapore in January last year – had about 70,000 bikes across the island.

On July 5, the Land Transport Authority gave oBike until the end of this month to clear all its bicycles from public areas here, after the initial July 4 deadline expired.

The authority said it would step in to clear the remaining bicycles – and charge the relevant fees to oBike – only if the firm failed to do so by the deadline.

The Straits Times understands that at least two different metal recycling companies – in Sungei Kadut and Tuas – have been responsible for scrapping oBike’s two-wheelers.

Checks found thousands of the silver and yellow bikes at these two facilities.

Lawyer Nicolas Tang said oBike’s liquidators had likely found scrapping the bikes to be the faster and cheaper option to recover funds for creditors, including users who had paid oBike deposits.

“A company can also sell its assets instead of scrapping them. However, it would need to find the right buyers at the right prices for the sale to go through,” said the Farallon Law Corporation managing director, adding that this would take time and effort.

Associate Professor Park Byung Joon, from the Singapore University of Social Sciences’ School of Business, said the sheer number of oBikes means they could take a long time to be sold off.

Mr Tang added that giving away the bicycles – whether to charities or other organisations – was not an option as liquidators have to ensure that assets are rightfully distributed to creditors.

“Such donations cannot be written off by the liquidator,” he added.

Meanwhile, some 3,000 oBike users have submitted claims for a refund of their deposits through a website set up by liquidator FTI Consulting. About $6.3 million in deposits is owed to users.

Lawyers have told ST that consumers, as unsecured creditors, are usually last in line when liquidators distribute the assets of a firm to pay off its debts.

Mr Lim Wen Sheng, who works in IT, said that making a claim was a hassle, as he had to dig through his credit card statements to find out when he made the deposit.

“It’s very difficult for users to remember when they registered,” said the 33-year-old, who also approached the Consumers Association of Singapore for help.

Mr Lim accepts that the chances of recovering his $49 deposit might be slim. He added that in future, he is unlikely to sign up with any bike-sharing operator that requires a deposit.

“I’d rather use that money to buy my own bicycle.”