Public shared bikes are badly disfigured by torching .
In recent months, shared bikes in China have been stolen, taken apart, locked up in chains, spray painted and even thrown from atop a building.
But what people did to shared bikes in the countryside of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, last Saturday was especially cruel.
Ten shared bikes were found piled together and burned at a remote village in Chengdu, to the point where many of them were badly disfigured.
The shared bikes had been moved from the streets by a local official.
Shared-bike services in China let people pick up bicycles right from the sidewalk and, when done, return them to a sidewalk, just about wherever they want. The bikes are free-standing and not locked to any station. Instead, a lock around the tire releases when scanned by a proprietary phone app, developed by the bike-sharing company behind the service.
A local administration staff member said he piled all the public bikes in this area, because users would park them all over the street. Yet he said he was not the one who set the fire. It is suspected that some local business owners burned them, as more tourists turn to shared bikes instead of the bike rental services they used to provide.
A manager of one of the many bike-sharing companies in Chengdu said 3,000 out of 60,000 bikes cannot be traced down by GPS – almost 1/6 of the total numbers – suggesting many of them have suffered similarly bad fates.
Chinese cities have been buzzing with enthusiasm over shared bikes after their introduction in recent months. However, frequent occurrences of theft and vandalism make people worry about the viability of these services.
Shared bikes are widely considered to be the next big thing in China's booming sharing economy, thanks to the country's initiatives to boost entrepreneurship with the mobile internet.
The QR-code scanning system makes them even easier to access than their counterparts in many other countries, where bike users are normally required to use their metro or bank cards to get access to bikes from certain locations. In China, the new sharing bikes allow people to obtain them from just about anywhere, only using their mobile phones.