By Lee Dong-jin
As in other countries, bicycle-sharing services in Korea have also become big business. Seoul Metropolitan Government officially began its own service named “Ddareungi (따릉이)” or “Seoul’s bike” in 2015, and several companies now also provide similar services.
Because bicycle-sharing is a desirable solution for air pollution, traffic jams, and lack of exercise, people are highly encouraged to use such a service. But to secure a safe environment for users and to promote bicycle-sharing services, the government still needs to take several steps.
First, certain obligations should be imposed on all service providers. Most restrictions in Korean traffic laws focus just on the controller of a vehicle. For example, bicycle riders must have lights on their bicycle for night riding. However, in the case of bicycle-sharing services, users who actually ride the bicycles cannot install lights do so because they are not owners and are only riding for a very short time. It is the service provider rather than the rider that can actually control and maintain the shared bicycle.
Second, a bicycle collection plan should be implemented for when a service company goes bankrupt. Recently one such company in Busan stopped operations because of financial difficulties. But the company did not collect or otherwise dispose of its bicycles on the road, which created a new traffic obstacle.
What was worse, because the bicycles still belonged to the company, the local government could not freely dispose of them. Acquiring prior consent for disposal from a company when it closes down would be a possible option.
Third, there should be some regulation that forces each rider to wear a safety helmet. Currently, there is only an obligation to wear it, but there is no penalty for noncompliance. Therefore, there is no way to force people to comply with the obligation. Even if riders are reluctant to wear a helmet during a short ride, at least some token penalty is needed for riders’ safety.