The sad tale of Obikes in Melbourne

Dear Rouleurs,

What is it about OBikes that has Melbournians so worked up?? MMT rides past many of the bikes in his travels and has been amazed by the amount of vandalism that bikes have experienced. In fact MMT wonders how the operators of the scheme actually make a profit given the trail of carnage he’s seen. The plastic mud guards seem easy to break off. The wheels are frequently bent and doubled over. The latest form of vandalism involves stealing the entire seat post with saddle, rendering the bike useless. MMT really started to notice how much abuse the scheme was experiencing, when took this not-so happy snap taken in October this year.

MMT feels a bit a sympathy for this lost Obike. There have been regular newspaper articles about the large number of OBikes being fished out of the Yarra . One article really caught MMT’s eye. Back on the 19th November, the Herald Sun reported a brawl that occurred on the Metro, where some nut job took a swing at a guy who took his OBike on the train. In the interests of public safety, this is what the nut job looks like.  If you are out riding and see this guy behind the steering wheel of a ute, 4WD or van, get off the road immediately.

Whilst that’s an extreme case, MMT gets the frustration that some Melbournians are feeling about this visual clutter. MMT is amazed to see these bikes being left in the back streets of Port Melbourne. That’s pretty much asking for trouble in MMT’s opinion. It seems that OBikes have become the new shopping trolley, where customers can use and dump without, it appears any significant penalty.

On face value the business case of OBike doesn’t really make much sense. You can hire a bike for about $2 for 30 minutes on a deposit of $69. If each bike is used, 10 times a day, that’s $20 a bike. So the average daily usage will be critical generating cash flow. If the deposit is representative of how much else bike costs, then I guess each bike has a break even point of about 35 rides. So how on earth does this scheme make money?? The answer seems to be in the geo-location technology used to track the bikes.

To use the scheme, a wanna-be customer downloads the app. The app shows the locations of nearby bikes. So here’s the pay off. By data mining your personal information and linking it to your trip behaviour, Obike is on-selling this information to other punters eg marketing and consumer behaviour companies (oh great people are going to sell me more stuff;-). That all sounds very big brother/Google-ish, consequently I’ll be giving the scheme a big miss.

Until next time ride safe

Marv

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