Students from Singapore University of Technology and Design have came up with Zaibike, a bike-sharing option for Singaporeans who want to enjoy their commute more. While we have seen similar systems overseas, none in Singapore has yet to take off with similar effect. But that might change soon. With an app which will make bike sharing as seamless as ‘Reserve, Rent, Ride, Return’, and a fleet that requires no maintenance on the users’ part, Zaibike might very soon be in your neighborhood.
We spoke with the co-founder & CEO (or Tête de la course) for ZaiBike, Lee Jun Xiang, to find out more about their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
1. Share with us how Zaibike started. Was it a school project?
ZaiBike started as an idea for making bicycle rental in Singapore easier. As a first year student from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) 2 years ago, I was excited about the opportunity to cycle in East Coast Park near our East Coast Campus. However, renting a bicycle was inconvenient, especially at night. So I thought about what I could do with what I was learning at school to make my vision possible.
Through some research, we found a commuting model that was already widely successful overseas: bicycle sharing systems. Together with a team, we ventured abroad to Hangzhou, China, and Boston, USA, to experience the bicycle sharing systems at the respective areas. We found that having large electronic stations was sometimes inconvenient, as these stations could not be located at our destinations, either through space constrains or the risk of encroaching into private property. Our research also found massive infrastructure and operational costs for these hubs.
Looking at the Singapore context, we devised smart shareable bicycles that could rely on existing infrastructure, racks already at MRTs and HDBs. We would install smart devices onto bicycles, allowing these smart bicycles to park at dumb racks. This idea was proposed to SUTD-MIT International Design Centre (IDC) as a self-initiated project, and we received funding to start prototyping our idea.
One year on, we had launched our second pilot trial in SUTD and our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. It was a wonderful journey for all the members in our team, and we are glad that this drive for a better commute in Singapore has led us to where we are now.
2. What are some of the challenges that you guys had to overcome so far, and what do you think are the biggest challenges ahead.
Our greatest challenge was always going to be time and expertise. As students, we had to juggle the rigorous demands of academic work with our project, and acquire sufficient knowledge and expertise to develop a bicycle sharing system without many precedence available in Singapore. Nonetheless, we valued the lessons that were taught in classes, and tried to apply them into our work. We contacted prominent figures in Singapore such as LTA and JTC with an eye on expanding our system island wide. We had also recently met with Francis Chu, co-founder of LoveCyclingSG to have a chat on the cycling culture and landscape in Singapore. All of these helped us improve our knowledge on the subject matter while ensuring that we brought our learning out of the classroom.
Another challenge we faced was on the prototyping of the device. With little precedence we could rely on and a high uncertainty on how our system will be accepted, we iterated through many ideas and rapid prototypes to find the best fit for our system. Our pilot trials were aimed at proving the feasibility and viability of this system, and we are glad that it has gone well thus far. Many iterations await us in the future too, and are we excited to know what is to come.
The biggest challenge we foresee in the future is operating our system in the public, to users outside of a controlled environment such as SUTD. There are many issues that we potentially face: Can our device and bicycles withstand the climate conditions of Singapore? What are the social behaviours and attitudes of Singaporeans toward a bicycle sharing system? Is Singapore’s cycling infrastructure ready to accommodate an influx of cyclists?
To answer these questions, we must test our system out in the public. As such, we will be progressively releasing our system to business parks and institutions, allowing young adults in tertiary education and the workforce to understand and educate others on cycling as a mode of commute. We will also be in close touch with relevant authorities such as LTA and JTC in implementing our system around existing cycling infrastructure and ensure that we do not over extend ourselves too early. As a first mover for such a system in Singapore, we must ensure that we do our due diligence in researching environmental and social behaviour first.
3. What lies beyond 2016 for Zai Bike?
Throughout 2016 and 2017, we will be looking at expanding our system to local institutions such as Victoria JC, Temasek JC, Temasek Poly, and ITE East, among others. We will also launch our system to industrial and business parks such as Changi Business Park and Technopark@Chai Chee. We will connect these communities through common avenues such as nearby MRT stations and East Coast Park. Once our system is sound and ready to be introduced to the public, we will launch our bikes into Pasir Ris, Tampines, Punggol and eventually Jurong. As our system does not rely on large infrastructure to be built, our system becomes more scalable and accessible to users.
We have also been getting some interest from overseas partners regarding our system. Perhaps you might even see ZaiBikes when visiting your favourite cities around South East Asia too.
*Considering giving them a second wind? Head to their crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and find out more!