Mobike offers Chinese commuters a way to beat the traffic – ride sharing on a bicycle

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 9:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 10:45pm

Mobike, a Chinese bicycle-sharing start-up backed by tech giant Tencent Holdings, is growing in popularity as an alternative for commuters in big cities facing traffic congestion and pollution.

As an option for last-mile trips and short-distance rides, Mobike wants to bring bicycles back to commuters looking for clean and green travel, said Xia Yiping, co-founder and chief technology officer of Mobike.

The black and orange bike, designed and made by Mobike, was first launched in Shanghai in April and later introduced in Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

“We chose these cities because they have traffic congestion problems – we see the need for a comeback of bicycles,” Xia said.

The company, founded in 2015 by ride-hailing firm Uber’s Shanghai general manager Wang Xiaofeng, is backed by Tencent and venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Sinovation Ventures.

The low rental fee is one of the reasons why Mobike is becoming more popular among daily commuters. Users are required to pay a deposit of 299 yuan (HK$342), then they can rent at 1 yuan per hour.

Xia said Mobike has no plans to following some ride-hailing apps’ strategy to inflate prices during peak hours.

“We have a simple purpose, that is to promote green travel. Commercial value is a long-term issue so we won’t consider it now,” he said.

Unlike traditional bicycle rental services, users don’t need to return the bikes, which are tracked by a GPS system, and when finished they can leave the bikes wherever they want. When they need to rent a bike again, the app will show them the location of nearby vacant bikes.

By scanning the QR code on the bike, users can unlock and activate the bike. When riders are finished with the journey, they can lock the bike again by scanning the QR code.

For Ken Wang, a Beijing resident who needs to travel from home to the city’s CBD every day during peak hours, Mobike has become a solution to avoid traffic congestion.

Now he goes to work using public transport and rents a bicycle with the Mobike app to go home after work.

“I am going to the busiest area in Beijing everyday. I am sick of the traffic congestion and the subway here is [also] too crowded, so Mobike is a good alternative,” he said.

“As I need to keep myself tidy when I go to work, so I prefer not to ride a bike in the morning. It’s good that I just need to rent one after work, and it’s really cheap,” Wang said.