Bike-sharing industry gears up amid coronavirus outbreak

By Chi Jingyi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/24 22:58:40 Last Updated: 2020/2/25 1:36:59

A phone displays the ofo mobile app in front of a shared-bike. Photo: IC

Several bike sharing platforms reported rising demand during the past few weeks amid the outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19). Analysts say the industry will be among the first to recover from the impact of the virus.

"The epidemic has highlighted the advantages of bike-sharing - open air and no crowd gathering - which are helpful to curb the spread of the coronavirus," industry analyst Liu Ju told the Global Times on Monday. 

"Bike-sharing apps can attract new users, some of whom will stay after the epidemic ends. Even after the outbreak is over, people will still focus on their own health, as flu comes every winter in China, so there will remain a market for shared bikes," said Liu.

According to data provided by Hellobike to the Global Times, the bike-sharing app backed by financial technology behemoth Ant Financial, demand for riding in Shenzhen's commercial office areas in South China's Guangdong Province rose 20.9 percent last week compared with the previous week.

In many first and second-tier cities in China, including Guangzhou and Beijing, the proportion of shared bikes returned near supermarkets, farmers' markets and other kinds of groceries increased by about 5 percent in one month as of February 15, data from Hellobike showed. 

The proportion of cycling over 3 kilometers has increased significantly, and in the epidemic center Wuhan in Central China's Hubei Province the number multiplied by three times.

"This shows that the public's demand for food has recently risen to a higher level and that some people have switched their way of commuting to cycling," Zhou Xuezhi, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

According to Hellobike, since the outbreak of the disease, the riding demand destined for medical services has increased significantly.

"Orders in some cities have increased compared with the same period last year, but the total demand for urban trips and bike-sharing trips has declined because more people have stayed at home and businesses have been shut down for a long time," Gong Dashuai, vice president of public affairs of Hellobike, told the Global Times on Monday.

"The data on bike-sharing is very representative and directional. During the epidemic, people may prefer to ride bikes rather than taking the subway or bus to work. It is also possible for bike-sharing to develop new customers, but the effect might be limited, as bike-sharing is not a new thing and has developed a large number of subscribers," said Zhou.

China had more than 235 million registered shared bike users in 2018, and the number in 2019 was estimated to be 259 million, according to market analysis agency iiMedia in 2019.

Zhou also warned that the virus outbreak can only help bike-sharing to boost orders in the off-season (winter) but won't last long. "Travel and commuting are highly correlated, and by the time the outbreak is over and companies fully resume working, people will go back to their previous ways of commuting quickly."


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