Vienna seizes schemes’ bicycles in crackdown on competition
Authorities have seized 780 bicycles in a week as Austria effectively bans schemes that include Chinese operator Ofo and Singapore’s oBike
Vienna — City authorities in the Austrian capital declared victory on Tuesday in their clampdown on dockless bicycle-sharing schemes, which they said were cluttering up public spaces.
Under new regulations that came into force on August 1, and which effectively ban such schemes, 780 bicycles had been seized, authorities said, representing virtually all such bikes in the city.
Chinese operator Ofo and Singaporean company oBike launched bike-sharing schemes in 2017 that used smartphone apps to run the service instead of the docking stations used in more established schemes.
Vienna has its own publicly operated Citybike system, with 1,500 bikes available at 121 terminals in the city.
The ability to park oBike and Ofo’s bikes anywhere was a convenience for users, but city authorities complained they were becoming a nuisance in public spaces and operators were not repairing vandalised bikes quickly enough.
Initially, both schemes met with success in Vienna, with Ofo’s fleet at one point rising to 1,800 bikes and oBike’s to 700. However, Ofo announced in July it was pulling out of the city after municipal authorities stepped up fines for illegally parked and vandalised bikes.
Most of the bikes that were seized in the operation belonged to oBike, which authorities say has been hard to contact since it fell into financial difficulties.
Dockless bike schemes have experienced huge growth in Asia since 2016 and launched in several European cities in 2017. New York recently announced a pilot scheme whereby selected operators would be allowed to release a limited number of bikes onto the streets. However the schemes have attracted negative headlines over vandalism and clutter.
In June authorities in Paris signed codes of conduct with operators of similar schemes to "prevent pavement blockages" and ensure the removal of faulty or illegally parked bikes.