Interview: Can Micro Mobility Sharing Work in Malaysia?
Since my appointment as the Head of Expansion and Partnership for Anywheel in 2019, I’ve been engaging the local authorities in Malaysia and Thailand to explore opportunities to provide shared services for bicycles and electric scooters in selected areas in the tier-1 and tier-2 cities. After 2 successful city launch in Penang, Malaysia and Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had the opportunity to share my views and insights to micro-mobility in Malaysia with Jade Chan, a journalist from The Star Malaysia.
Here’s the conversation:
Jade: Can you provide the details about the e-mobility project for Bukit Damansara (purpose, implementation, follow-ups)?
Johan: Bukit Damansara is a very interesting project for us and will be the first in Kuala Lumpur to provide sustainable urban mobility for first/last mile connectivity and short distance travel to the community. What we aim to achieve here is to create awareness and getting the local community to adopt the new mode of travel instead of driving. Our priority is to connect residents & employees (business district) to the MRT stations, and residents & employees to retail outlets or places of interest in Bukit Damansara. The challenge here will be the road condition, gradients and traffic, so we are still in the midst of identifying the operating zones, connectivity and routes that are safe for users to travel using our scooters. We expect to complete the study by end January and we will present the proposal to DBKL for their consent to operate. We are looking at end-Feb or March to kick start this trial.
Jade: I understand Anywheel had several e-scooters available for use at the Asia-Pacific Urban Forum in Penang. How was the reception to Anywheel e-scooters in Penang?
Johan: The response was overwhelming with strong support from MBPP’s Mayor and Urbanice Malaysia. We had 70 scooters within the vicinity of SPICE Convention Centre and we had more than 1000 users downloading the app and testing the scooters over the course of the event.
Jade: How will Anywheel’s e-mobility projects in Malaysia be different from earlier failed projects such as oBike?
Johan: The biggest difference here is that we work closely with the federal government and local authorities, especially with Urbanice Malaysia to identify areas to start trials, create awareness, making mobility affordable and making sustainable mobility work in Malaysia. Together with our partner Urbanice, we identify zones in a city where we can start a trial program. Followed by a feasibility study of implementation, the whole process (including approval from local authorities) usually takes 3 to 6 months before we hit the ground with our devices. The number of devices we deploy in each zone will vary depending on the area size, population density, infrastructure and connectivity. For each of the zone we run trials, we will develop and monitor the metrics with our partners to ensure the trial is in the right trajectory, which translates to successful adoption of the new mode of mobility in the local community.
How are we different from oBike?
1st we have strategic partners in the federal and local government
2nd we invest time and resources to study the local community requirements
3rd we provide solutions that are localised to each community/ zones we operate
4th we develop, track and share success metrics
5th we have a sustainable goal in Malaysia
Jade: Will Anywheel’s projects for APUF Penang and Bukit Damansara serve as a test ground for something larger?
Yes, both projects are a testing ground for Urbanice and us. As mentioned in Point no 5, we need to be methodical, process driven with attention to details when comes to implementing such projects to ensure success. We are looking at connecting residential/offices to the transportation nodes/places of interest. We work with local authorities to identify routes and build lanes in a zones, and when there’s more than 1 zone in a district, we start to look at inter-zones connectivity. It’s a very exciting time for us and something for local communities to look forward to.
Jade: What are Anywheel’s plans for its expansion in Malaysia?
We are definitely looking forward to have our presence in every city in Malaysia. However (as mentioned above), we are taking a very localised approach in this. Several local authorities have approached us and we are in the stage of feasibility studies.
Jade: In terms of regulations and guidelines, how does Anywheel plan to go about this? Will the company work with the respective local authorities/ Malaysian government agencies on this, or will it be based on the Singaporean regulation and guideline?
We are definitely working with local authorities on the regulations and guidelines, although in the absence of one, we are falling back on SG’s version and other countries guidelines for localisation for practicality and workaround the lack of infrastructure and connectivity. One of the example scooters are not allowed to be on the street in SG, but in NSW scooters are allowed to be on the street. For the speed limit, we are capping at 15kph due to the poor quality of pavement which may be a potential hazard to riders.
This interview was published in The Star: