With leading bike-sharing companies gearing up for global expansion, China's innovation in on-demand transportation has surprised the world with a business model that stands out in the sharing economy.
Mobike, one of China's largest dockless bike-sharing operators, will launch an initial 1,000 bikes in Manchester and Salford on June 29, making Britain the latest in a string of overseas markets that Chinese bike-sharing companies have entered, including the United States, Singapore and Kazakhstan.
GLOBAL EXPANSION WITH CHALLENGES
China is "the world leader in on-demand transportation," representing 67 percent of global market share, according to the 2017 Internet trends report delivered by Mary Meeker, a partner of U.S. venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
In particular, on-demand bike transportation in China is second only to cars. Two-thirds of bike riders use bike-sharing programs three or more times per week, the report shows.
Huang He, a professor at School of Business of Yeshiva University in the United States, stressed that the surging growth of China's bike-share should be attributed to young people's entrepreneurship, abundant capital from angel investors and strong support from the Chinese authorities.
However, Mobike, its most successful domestic competitor Ofo, and BlueGoGo have met with some common challenges in the European, U.S. and Singaporean markets, where traditional bike-sharing companies with docking stations have gained market dominance.
In Europe, more than 550 cities have bike sharing systems. U.S. operators Bicycles/SoBi and Motivate for instance also started to look at the European market.
Compared with shared bikes with docking stations, dockless bikes allow users to simply pick up or park a bike anywhere on the street, instead of at designated docking points.
However, many local city officials and transportation advocates overseas have expressed rejection to the station-free bikes, for fear that the bikes would be parked disorderly, leading to congested sidewalks or obstructed streets and bringing new burdens to local transportation departments.
Transportation Alternatives, a New York-based non-profit organization (NGO) aimed at promoting non-polluting and city-friendly transportation, issued a statement in April, claiming that New York city must proceed carefully on dockless bike share.
"We also cannot allow other bike share operators to conduct business in a way that leads to obstructed sidewalks, public nuisance, and a damaged reputation for bike share in general," said the statement.
LOCALIZED SOLUTION BACKED BY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY
Industry insiders also stressed that bike-sharing companies should pay adequate attention to every city's unique characteristics when they try to seek market share.