Bike-sharing problems require effort from all sides

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/23 19:58:40

On a recent night in Shanghai after darkness had fallen, I searched a street near my office in Xinzhuang for a shared bike. I was lucky that day. After about 20 minutes of frustrated searching, I finally found an Ofo bike lying quietly by a tall tree.

About an hour later, I arrived at my destination, Nanyang Middle School. This time around, I ran into another problem. There were rows and rows of shared bikes and there was almost no place for me to park mine. Pedestrians were forced to walk on the bike lane. At a nearby bus stop - which had also been encroached upon by shared bikes - groups of residents were complaining about the colorful flood of wheels and metal at their doorstep.

The past year has seen rapid development of the bike-sharing industry. Shared bikes have become a common sight in the city. However, it seems bike-sharing companies don't have a complete map of Shanghai. While downtown streets are often occupied by all types of shared bikes, hardly any can be spotted in the suburbs. It's not at all surprising to see aimless, frustrated people like me trying to find a shared bike there. (And, alas, some bikes are broken.)

Traffic police in Shanghai have recently announced that they will take bicycles that are not parked in lined parking areas away so that they will not affect pedestrian access and traffic. Interference from administrators might be necessary, as the bike-sharing industry has literally "run amok" in city centers. But as a frequent user of shared bikes, I don't think this is the best way out. A complete cleanup might make it harder for users to find a bike during rush hours. And it can hardly root out the problem - bikes may come back again.

A better solution, in my opinion, may come from the market itself. Bike-sharing companies must shoulder most of the responsibility. Introducing shining, attractive bikes to streets should not be the end of the story. Instead, it should only be the start. By working with administrators and depending on modern technologies such as GPS and big data, bike-sharing companies are definitely able to distribute their bikes more wisely. Big players like Mobike and Ofo claim to have done so, but the effect, as I have observed, has been pretty modest so far.

Traffic police, in the meantime, may allot the time they currently spend clearing away bikes to finding more spaces on sidewalks for people to park their bikes. Some newly-opened roads are in want of bike-parking areas, while the white lines for some existing parking areas are too faint to be noticed. Police may also consider erecting more parking signs to guide riders to park their bikes properly. I have seen such signs on Sanlin Road in Pudong - a good start.

And can we also make a small difference? My answer is "Yes!" After using a shared bike, park it in a lined parking area. And instead of always parking our bikes on the main road, we may sometimes consider leaving them on a less crowded road, as I did that evening.

Bike sharing was meant to bring convenience to everybody. While we frequent users enjoy the benefits, we should ensure that our mechanical friends never leave troubles for those who are not using them.

Wu Jiajun, an editor with the Shanghai Students' Post.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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