The Economist reports on a new trend that is getting attention in China-the return of the bicycle. Unlike the conventional docking systems that are used for bike-sharing initiatives in many cities, a user-friendly approach has been taken in China where bike rental is paid for by smart phone and then the bike can be left anywhere after the ride. The use of GPS technology enables the bikes to be located with a mobile app. Since the typical bike ride by bike share is about fifteen cents or one yuan, and since bikes can move faster in areas that cars cannot, bike share has caught on.
Established in 2015, bike share company “OFO” has over 2.5 million bike share yellow framed bikes in more than fifty Chinese cities, with rival Mobike installing bright orange wheeled bikes. Things must be going well as Ofo is now commencing bike share services in Singapore and San Diego, as well as Cambridge England.
So has the dockless bike system had challenges? “Some riders hide the bikes in or near their homes to prevent others from using them. Another trick involves photographing a bike’s QR code and then scratching it off to stop others from scanning it. With the stored image, the rider can then monopolise the machine. But customers caught misbehaving can have points deducted from their accounts, making it more expensive for them to rent the bikes.”
While thirty years ago 63 per cent of people in Beijing biked, the number today is only 12 per cent, perhaps because cycling in China is dangerous-40 per cent of road accidents include bicycles. Previously installed bike lanes have been taken out to make room for cars, and bicycles are seen as causing congestion according to “some city authorities”. “This month the southern city of Shenzhen ordered limits on the number of shared bikes. Other cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, are considering similar measures.”
While bicycles are battling for their road share, the use of bikes does represent sustainability and reduced carbon emissions, both goals that China is striving for. Will Chinese cities be willing to retool their boulevards and plazas for bike lanes to accommodate the return of the bike?
Image Deal Street Asia