Paris wants to regulate Asian bike-share operators

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris does not want Asian bike-sharing operators to burst into the city the way Airbnb and Uber did and plans to introduce regulation to ensure an orderly rollout of new bicycle schemes, a top city official told Reuters.

Several '' bicycles, a city bike-sharing service, by Hong Kong startup, are seen on a sidewalk in Paris, France, October 10, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Launched just last week, Hong Kong’s has already spread its bikes all over Paris and Chinese giants Ofo and Mobike, as well as Singapore startup oBike, see entering the French capital as a key step in their plans to conquer Europe’s city centers.

Armed with hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital, the Asian bike-sharing firms, which have revolutionized urban transport in China, have already launched their colorful dockless bikes in a string of European cities like Milan and London, some with local authority blessing, some not.

Some cities fear that the uncontrolled introduction of thousands of bicycles will bring chaos on roads and sidewalks, as has happened in China. Dockless bikes can be found and unlocked with mobile apps and parked anywhere.

Paris deputy mayor for urban planning Jean-Louis Missika, told Reuters the city wants to control the bike schemes and does not want to see them to break into an unregulated Paris market the way U.S. ride-hailing firm Uber and short-term rental firm Airbnb have in recent years.

“We will ask the government to give the city the power to regulate under the form of a license,” Missika said on the sidelines of urban mobility conference Autonomy.

He added that bike share operators will have to respect rules about using public space and may have to pay a license.

“We do not have the required regulatory framework, just like it was with Airbnb ... and Uber before legislators created a license,” Missika said.

In July, Paris made it mandatory for apartments rented through Airbnb to be registered.

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Missika said Paris is in favor of bike-sharing, which it has pioneered with its dock-based Velib scheme, but added he was not too happy with the way had started operations.

“They saw a gap in the regulation and they jumped in. We cannot blame them, but that does not mean we will leave it at that,” he said.

Ofo - which operates 10 million bikes in China and has launched thousands in Milan, Vienna, Valencia and London - told Reuters last week it plans to launch its bikes in Paris around year-end.

Missika said several operators have contacted the city to discuss introducing their bike schemes, including Ofo’s big Chinese competitor Mobike.

Singapore startup oBike, which has launched its bikes in London, Munich, Madrid and Zurich, already has a team in Paris.

“We hope to get bikes on the ground in Paris in the next few weeks,” oBike’s Amber Huang told Reuters. The company has also started talks with several other French cities including Avignon, Marseilles and Strasbourg.

Last month, Brussels mobility minister Pascal Smet said oBike had launched there without contacting regional authorities and said he was looking into establishing a legal framework.

“We’d be happy to work with local authorities,” Huang said.

Florian Bohnert, head of global partnerships at Shanghai-based Mobike, declined to comment on the firm’s plans for Paris and Europe but said the firm always negotiates with local governments before launch.

“Some other players tend to act first and talk later, put 500 bikes in a city, have a press announcement, then a few months later their bikes are being impounded,” he said.

Mobike operates 7 million bikes worldwide, mostly in China. In May, it raised $600 million from China’s Internet giant Tencent Holdings and several private equity firms, which will be partly used for foreign expansion.

In recent months it has launched thousands of bikes in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Japan’s Sapporo and Fukuoka, in Washington DC and in Europe it has launched in London, Manchester and Newcastle, in Milan and Florence.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Toby Chopra