Uber taxi now is probably the most convenient and economic transportation in most European countries. While tens of thousands of miles away from Europe, another kind of “Uber” is becoming popular in China. It is what dubbed “Uber bike”.
“Uber bike” is a kind of dockless bikes which allow users to find, use and pay for a cycling experience just like what they can get from a Uber taxi. And Mobike and Ofo are two of the most popular startups of this kind.
People download an app that tells the users where to find a cycle, which they unlock by scanning a QR code on their phones. Unlike traditional rental services, however, which require bikes to be returned to a fixed docking station, riders are free to leave the bikes wherever their journey ends.
These bikes are popular in many Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, because they provide an effective solution to the “last mile” problem, which refers to the final leg of a person’s journey.
“In places where the subway doesn’t extend, where it’s difficult to change from one kind of transport to another, it’s so easy to get where you want to go with Mobike,” Hu Hong, 29, told AFP. She pedals to her Shanghai real-estate job.
However, the schemes have also led to problems such as illegal parking, vandalism and theft.
“Thousands of bikes parked everywhere around the city and many are not working because nobody takes care of them – the city’s beauty has been destroyed.” Eric Mao, marketing manager at Green Smart Traffic (GST) said to The Guardian.
In fact, these problems are also shared by bike-sharing schemes abroad. Launched in 2007, Vélib is the world’s first large-scale bike-sharing scheme in Paris. At its early stage of operation, it also suffered from problems of vandalism or theft.
By Oct 2009, 80 percent of the initial 20,600 bicycles stolen or damaged, according to The New York Times. Bikes were found hanging from lampposts or thrown into the Seine River.
To deal with these problems, the company came up with the idea of encouraging people to return the bikes to stations by rewarding free time for their next rides.
Now cycle share firms in China had also found ways to tackle it. Mobike gives users 100 credits when they start to use the bike and users can earn more by photographing and reporting badly parked bikes around the city. If a user always parks in the wrong place, then he will have fewer credits. And once a user has fewer than 80 points, the costs of rental increased to 100 yuan per 30 minutes, up from 0.5-1 yuan.
“Although I use both Mobike and Ofo, I think the rules of Mobike is more reasonable as it monitors us to drop the bike in the right place so that we don’t make troubles for our city.” Said Chen Xue, 30, who often use dockless bikes to commute between her journalist job and her home.
China used to be a large “bicycle kingdom”, with 670 million bikes in 1995. But the figure declined to 435 million in 2005 as many worshipped the private car and saw cycling as backward. However, these sharing apps have made cycling cool again in China. And they may have the potential to go to overseas market. Mobike is launching in Singapore this year. And Ofo is going to get into Cambridge, UK.
“The public bike share cuts the burden of traffic and promotes an environmentally friendly approach among the people of the city.” Zhang Li Qiang, the chief executive of GST told The Guardian.