It's become an all-too familiar sight on the streets of suburban Australia: yellow oBikes, most likely missing a seat or pedal, lying semi-submerged in a canal, slumped against a tree or even, somehow, suspended halfway up it.
The dockless bike system, which launched in Sydney in August last year, has suffered setbacks with stolen bikes and council restrictions. But love it or hate it, it looks like we're not about to see them go anytime soon. And if you thought the Singaporean-based juggernaut oBike was content to stop at just bikes, think again.
'oSkate' — a skateboard sharing platform in partnership with global deck brand EMillion — was announced last night during a swanky launch party at Sydney's Ivy Ballroom, with oBike CEO Iocus Finlayson naming Sydney as its primary test city. It will then roll out the new service across Melbourne and Adelaide in the following months.
"Ease of mobility lies at the heart of our company" explained Finlayson to a gathering of the city's movers, shakers and social media influencers. "But the feedback we continue to receive is that people want greater variety in the way they get from A to B, and for many the oBike is just too cumbersome or takes up too much space on sidewalks and pedestrian thoroughfares. oSkate not only introduces a smaller, streamlined dynamic to the dockless economy, but we think a cooler one, too".
Cooler? The jury's still out, but oSkate does solve a major administrative nightmare for oBike courtesy of Australia's unique mandatory helmet laws. "It's true that under Australian law you do require a helmet for bikes, but not for skateboards" confirmed Allens Linklaters Senior Associate Alex Mason. "Even so, we'd recommend one all the same if you can manage it. Safety should trump convenience, always".
The company plans to roll out the first of its decks by June 1 this year, each of which will be fitted with the familiar wheel blocking mechanism that can only be unlocked via the oBike app (which itself will soon be rebranded as 'oMode' to keep in-line with the soon to be expanded transportation options).
Finlayson also set out the company's rollout plan for the coming 12 months, some of which was met with more enthusiastic cheers than others. Chief among the popular announcements was 'oBoard' — a surf, boogie and stand-up paddle board service to begin operation next summer — as well as roller skates and rollerblades to supplement the oSkate program.
Finally, 'oKick' will be phased in early 2019, offering unlockable running shoes to those eager to burn off a heavy night's drinking without ruining their beloved Louboutins.