internet & e-commerce

Bike-sharing services

There are 2.4 million rental bicycles in Beijing, and the city says enough is enough

China’s capital city is the 11th city to impose a moratorium on bicycle-renting services, preventing them from putting more vehicles on already chaotic roads.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 7:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 7:34pm

Beijing’s municipal government has imposed a moratorium on the 15 bicycle-renting services and applications operating in the Chinese capital, barring them from putting any more vehicles on roads that are already choking with 2.4 million two-wheeled rental conveyances.

Local authorities of the city, with more than 20 million residents, said it would step up efforts to ensure rental bicycles are only parked in designated, approved spots, according to the government’s announcement posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like service.

The announcement makes Beijing the 11th city after Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and others to tighten the leash around more than 40 bicycle-rental companies that have sprouted all over the country, with an estimated 16 million rental bicycles in Chinese cities, according to the transport authority.

While they vastly add to the “last mile” convenience to city commuters, the ride-anywhere and park-anywhere business models of most of these services mean they’re almost always parked haphazardly, which soon become an unsightly public nuisance to the cityscape.

The service is the latest to have taken over China’s “sharing economy,” a business model built around smartphone-enabled applications that shared resources from bicycles to prams and even battery chargers and umbrellas.

Chinese Bike-sharing services attract more than 100 million users in the past year

Bicycle renting’s growth had been explosive in the past year, with up to 106 million people using various smartphone-enabled services as at the end of June, according to August data by the China internet Network Information Centre, the Chinese government’s online industry research facility.

Leading the pack are two bicycle renters backed by two of China’s largest internet companies. Mobike is backed by Tencent, the operator of the dominant Chinese social network, while Ofo is backed by Alibaba Group Holding, which runs the world’s largest online shopping platform, and owns the South China Morning Post.

The two Beijing-based services -- each a “unicorn” with its business valued at more than US$1 billion -- are fighting for market share and dominance by flooding city streets with their bicycles, each identifiable by a unique colour, to attract new users.

Changzhou Youon Public Bicycle System, the first of the ride-sharing companies to raise funds through an initial public offering, has tripled in value less than a month since its August 17 listing. Youon’s shares rose to as much as 100.30 yuan each on August 31. It now carries a market cap of 7.76 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) at a price of 80.85 yuan on Thursday.