Citizens commend cornucopia of cycles that have wheeled into China’s cities

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/9/12 19:03:39

A scenic 20-kilometer-long bike path in Zhaoqing, South China's Guangdong Province. Photo: IC

"Riding a bicycle is so convenient as it avoids traffic jams and saves time," said Ryan Zhuhonghao, a senior at China's Renmin University. "For me, bike-sharing is a brilliant idea and cycling culture is so useful indeed."

The young man, who spoke as he was unlocking a shared bicycle using his smart phone in Beijing's Haidian District, is one of over 130 million shared bike users in China, which now has around 70 bike-sharing brands operating more than 16 million bicycles nationwide, according to the Ministry of Transport (MOT).

Pioneered by two leading Chinese companies, Tencent-based Beijing company Mobike and its Didi Chuxing-backed rival Ofo, bike-sharing is booming in China.

The government has created special lanes for bicycles where cars are not allowed, adding bicycle signs to the traffic signs. "I think it is a very good policy for society," Ryan told Xinhua while leaning on an orange bicycle he had just rented.

Using a shared bike is easy. The user simply opens a mobile app, locates the nearest bike, and unlocks the bike by scanning the barcode with his or her smart phone.

"They are available all over the city, they spare people traffic congestion and they don't produce harmful gases, so they are environment-friendly," Deng Xuan, 20, from Central China's Hunan Province, told Xinhua.

To further regulate shared bikes, the government phased in new guidelines in August to keep the bike-sharing system on track and avoid random parking outside subway stations that sometimes leads to congested sidewalks.

"Shared bikes are part of the green urban transport system, and city governments should optimize bike transportation networks to improve convenience and safety for riders," the guidelines said.

Due to safety concerns, one of the guidelines says that children under 12 should not use bike-sharing services, and they are discouraged from getting electric bikes as well.

Electric license

Li Leyun and Lacey Ge, two friends and colleagues at Tsinghua University in Beijing, were riding the same electric bike when they stopped to park on a designated parking lot on the sidewalk.

"The electric bike is faster and more convenient than a bicycle and you can ride it with another person. We don't need to get a license to ride a bicycle but we need it for an electric bike," Leyun told Xinhua.

Her friend Lacey said that the streets and roads are well designed for riders with special parking lots, lanes and traffic signs. "So, bike-sharing seems very systematic and well organized in the big cities."

Cycling culture is not new in China. It existed for a long time before automobiles started to prevail a couple of decades ago. Now cycling is again becoming popular amid the growing desire for sustainable development and clean energy.

"I have been riding bicycles since I was a young lady," said Wang Xihui, 70, who stopped for an interview with Xinhua in Xicheng district. "The bicycle is very important to me, as it is very convenient while going out shopping or doing anything else," she said.

Too much of a good thing

Sometimes a Chinese city has too many bikes. For instance, a survey by the Shanghai Bicycle Association showed that half a million bikes are sufficient to meet the daily needs of Shanghai, but the city is home to over one million shared bikes.

This is why new guidelines urge local governments to study specific conditions to ensure the rational allocation of bicycles and avoid excess supply in some areas, so that bike-sharing is a solution, not a problem.

Mobike and Ofo, China's two leading firms in the field, are now offering services outside of China. Mobike's services are now available in Britain, Italy, Japan and Singapore, and it announced its entry into the Malaysian market on Wednesday.

Ofo operates in Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan. Its cofounder Zhang Siding told Xinhua earlier in July that his company plans to expand to 20 countries by the end of the year.


Newspaper headline: Shared bike bonanza

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