Asia Minute: Bike Sharing Brings Hopes and Headaches to China

Jul 7, 2017

Credit tpsdave / Pixabay

It’s been a little more than a week since Honolulu launched its bike-sharing program. The project has brought a thousand bikes to the streets of Honolulu, and some mixed reactions from residents. Across the Pacific, bike sharing has produced some enthusiasm in China—along with some caution. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Bike sharing has turned into a huge business in China.

Two competing companies now have a valuation of more than a billion dollars apiece.

Mobike and Ofo both have major corporate backing from private equity and technology companies.

The latest round of funding came this week—$700 million for Ofo.

Recent developments have been much less encouraging for a smaller pair of Chinese bike sharing operations.

China’s Global Times reports Beijing-based 3vbike has been forced to shut down—because people have stolen some 90 percent of its inventory of more than a thousand bikes.

The newspaper says Wukong Bicycle in Chongqing closed late last month for the same reason. In part because of technological shortcomings in being able to track the locations of their bikes.

One difference between bike sharing programs in China and those in Honolulu: most in China do not use docking stations.

This has led some patrons to leave their bikes where they don’t belong—piling them near subway stations, for example.

The result has been a bit chaotic for cities where many decades ago bicycles were more common than cars. 

The South China Morning Post quotes one university professor in Beijing as saying “Chinese cities today are built for the convenience of cars.” Adding that in China, “Cities are very unfriendly for bikes.”