Municipalities should create scope for sharing platforms like oBike, says legal expert Stefan Philipsen in an interview with EM. Leo Bruijn, chairman of the PvdA in Rotterdam, is rather less enthusiastic about these shared bikes. “If you can’t or won’t spend money on a bike, are you really going to pay a 70 euro deposit?”

“The #obike is not a sharing bike; it’s just a way to use the public space at the expense of the Rotterdam tax payer.” Was signed: Leo Bruijn, chairman of the PvdA party in the Rotterdam municipal council, this summer at BNR. Because although in The Issue, Stefan Philipsen opposes overregulation of sharing platforms and claims that the city can benefit from them, Bruijn is not so keen on such initiatives. Representing the PvdA, he takes any opportunity to rant against the oBike: in the municipal council, on Twitter and in the media. Time for a chat.

What’s your problem with oBike?

“We’re not against sharing bikes in themselves. But oddly, oBike doesn’t use docking stations. Normally, your rental period stops when you return your bike there. But oBike aggressively distributes the bikes all over the city, with no obligation to return them. As a result, the city is full of them. That’s my biggest concern.”

“Furthermore, I’m against oBike doing all this without any consultation. I can imagine that you want to think out of the box for this kind of initiative. But don’t just dump lorry loads of bikes in the street. Remember that your concept is special, and that you need the outdoor space and the municipality to implement it. Do it together.”

Stefan Philipsen says: see the benefits too, such as covering the last mile of public transport…

“The last mile? It takes another ten minutes before I’ve got an oBike. I could walk the distance in that time.”

…or give people in Zuid access to a bike.

“If you can’t or won’t spend money on a bike, are you really going to pay a 70 euro deposit? If you want lower costs, you’d be better off going to Piekfijn and buying a bike there for 50 to 100 euros.”

‘It’s a small step to total derailment’

Leo Bruijn

Another much criticised sharing platform is AirBnB. What’s your opinion on that?

“I don’t have a problem with it in its original form, so the fact that you can rent a spare room for a maximum of sixty days a year. We feel it’s fine that you can earn some extra money from it. But it’s a small step to total derailment, so making your home purely for tourists. That increases the shortage of housing and boosts prices. We’re therefore appealing for compulsory registration for landlords with monitoring, paid for by the landlords. You could do that through tourist tax, for example.”

Can the city also benefit instead of suffer from sharing platforms?

“I’m not against the sharing economy. Take lending out a drill or toolkit, for example. And car sharing is also fine. It runs itself, because the use of the outdoor space is paid for by the parking place. The sharing economy can also work well for shared office spaces. You can rent your own office, but it’s nearly always empty. So it makes more sense to go to a cafe and work on your laptop there.”

And finally: have you ever sat on an oBike?

“The bike is much too small for me. They seem to have been designed for Asiatic people. I expect that’s why they’re so small.”

The PvdA in Rotterdam is not the only party that is critical about the oBike. The CDA (which forms the coalition along with Leefbaar Rotterdam and D66) also feels that the company ought to pay for the use of the outdoor space, to pay for more bicycle racks for example. GroenLinks, SP and NIDA apparently think the same. Leefbaar Rotterdam wants to ensure the oBikes are only parked in certain places. Only D66 and opposition party VVD are happy with the current situation, in which the municipality operates the same policy towards oBikes as normal bikes.

A rather more radical position is adopted by the area committee Rotterdam Centrum, the local organisation that promotes the interests of this district. “Another possibility is to organise an exclusive event on the Maasvlakte for oBike subscribers,” a post on its Facebook page suggested in the summer. “Where’s that party? Here’s that party! With a free bus back to the centre.”