Bike-sharing faces bumpy road in main cities

Updated 2017-02-15 14:24:45 Ecns.cn
Photo shows bikes that users can easily ride or park under the sharing scheme. (Photo/Chinanews.com)

Photo shows bikes that users can easily ride or park under the sharing scheme. (Photo/Chinanews.com)

(ECNS) -- Main cities in China have seen an explosion of colorful bikes that users can easily ride or park using a smartphone app. However, such bike-sharing schemes are facing various challenges, including vandalism to parking chaos and a lack of supervision.

Bike-sharing is regarded as a way for large cities to reduce congestion, cut air pollution, improve health, and also perhaps spin a profit for start-ups. However, statistics show more than 10,000 sharable bikes have been damaged in various ways – such as bikes being painted or key-like QR codes interfered with.

A recent news report said a hacker was able to unlock a bike in five seconds by taking advantage of a technical bug, although usually the cost for one ride is as low as one yuan (.14). It's also reported that some bicycles have been thrown into ditches, left parked in the middle of roads or driveways, or had seats or other parts stolen.

Zhu Dajian, director of Tongji University's Sustainable Development and Management Research Institute, said to unlock a bike by hacking is just a mentality of gaining petty advantages. Zhu believes as a form of sharing economy it would eventually meet less vandalism as the sector matures.

Tech firm Mobike has hundreds of thousands of bikes in at least 15 Chinese cities. It said its bicycles were mostly intentionally damaged by a small number of criminals rather than ordinary users of the service.

The company said it closely cooperates with police to help protect its property. Mobike founder Hu Weiwei disclosed the damage rate of bikes is manageable.

Another market leader Ofo, with more than one million bikes mostly based at universities in China, also said bike-sharing is still new and it's understandable that some people don't use the bikes properly. It's estimated damaged bikes account for less than one percent of stock.

Bike-sharing startups like Mobike and Ofo all have regulations to encourage the proper use and parking of bikes. Mobike has been seeking cooperation with the government and other stakeholders to set up parking spaces for the service. Ofo users who are found to have damaged a bike are put on a blacklist and reported to police.

Li Junhui, a researcher in intellectual property rights at China University of Political Science and Law, said bike-sharing platforms need to improve management around parking in order to develop the sector further.

Zhu also called for the effective use of public space to support the growth of bike-sharing.

Shenzhen in Guangdong Province and Chengdu in Sichuan Province have started to introduce rules to regulate the bike-sharing industry. Both cities require that the parking of bikes must meet certain requirements. Shanghai is also planning to roll out policies to deal with irregular parking and technical standards.

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