By Nikki Sun

Hong Kong is finally jumping on the bandwagon – or bicycle – of the bike-sharing trend which has taken the mainland by storm. Starting Thursday, cyclists can use more than 400 smart bicycles in the New Territories by simply scanning a QR code.

Start-up, founded by Hong Kong-based entrepreneur Raphael Cohen two months ago, aims to offer busy people an easy option for short distance commute. The service works by allowing cyclists to rent and drop off bicycles around the city.

Following the success stories of mainland counterparts such as Ofo, which runs in 50 Chinese cities and has a market value that jumped to US$2 billion (HK$15.5 billion) in less than two years, Cohen said Hong Kong also had a huge potential for the business model.

“We are here to make transportation convenient and affordable,” he added. A ride on a Gobee bike will cost HK$5 per half hour. Currently, bike rentals for leisure purposes cost HK$40 per day in Tai Po.

Cohen said that there was a great demand for bike-sharing in a city like Hong Kong, where people walked considerable distances between public transport stops. Bicycles would ideally fill this gap.

To rent a Gobee bike powered by solar panels, users will need to log into a mobile application, register their credit card and pay a deposit of HK$399. An active map will locate the nearest bicycle which can be unlocked by scanning a QR code.

Currently, the mobile application is only accessible on Android devices, but an iOS platform for Apple users will be launched next week.

The company has 400 bikes along tracks in Sha Tin, Tai Po, and Ma On Shan. The number is expected to reach 1,000 by the end of the week, and 20,000 by July.

Unlike existing bike rental services in Hong Kong, cyclists riding Gobee bikes will not have to pick up and drop their bicycles at designated locations.

“Technically, you can park them anywhere as long as it is legal,” Cohen said, referring to public racks across the city.

He said the service could also be a solution for people who had very limited living space to store their own bikes.

But commuters on Hong Kong Island and in Kowloon – two regions which are more crowded – will only have access to the service by the end of the year, partly due to the lack of cycling tracks and supporting infrastructure.

The Hong Kong Cycling Alliance welcomed the launch of the first bike-sharing service in the city and expected high usage rates.

“App-based bike sharing is about to conquer the world, and it’s fantastic that Hong Kong has this new programme ahead of so many other places,” Martin Turner, chairman of the alliance, said.