Besieged by bicycles

Updated 2017-05-11 10:31:04 Global Times
Shared bikes lean against each other in front of SKP shopping mall in Beijing on Monday.

Shared bikes lean against each other in front of SKP shopping mall in Beijing on Monday.

With bike sharing's success, cities grappling with sprawl of cycles clogging the sidewalks

China's bike-sharing companies have found that success breeds its own set of challenges. As bike-sharing's popularity has skyrocketed, Chinese cities have strained to deal with the sprawling masses of shared bicycles that surround many bus and subway stations at rush hours, blocking pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Bike-sharing companies have hired workers to organize their bicycles. Several cities have instituted regulations to deal with the problem. Yet the situation has left some wondering if bike sharing can be regulated without killing the convenience that has made it a success.

A worker surnamed Xue stacked yellow bikes onto the bed of his electric three-wheeler on Monday afternoon outside the East Bawangfen bus station in Beijing's Chaoyang district.

The bus station serves as a popular transfer point for residents who commute downtown from Beijing's Tongzhou district or Yanjiao township, North China's Hebei Province.

Xue's employer, bike-sharing company Ofo, posted him there after the bus station found itself besieged by masses of shared bicycles, which spilled out onto the roadway, sometimes blocking buses from leaving the station.

"Many shared bikes tend to get dumped outside the station around 6:30 pm, the period when people arrive to catch their buses home," Xue told the Global Times on Monday.

Xue then started up his vehicle to ship Ofo's bright yellow bicycles to another part of the town.

"We need to transport Ofo bikes from one site to another about a dozen times during each eight-hour work shift," he said.

Bike-sharing start-ups like Ofo and Beijing Mobike Technology Co have had to establish on-the-ground maintenance teams to deal with the mounting problems of illegally parked and inconveniently placed bicycles that have accompanied China's bike-sharing boom, the companies' spokespeople have said.

The situation illustrates one of the problems that has emerged with the lightning-fast growth of China's bike-sharing industry, which has left companies and local governments scrambling to solve the issue without sacrificing the convenience that has made bike sharing such a success.

Parking problems

It has become commonplace in major cities to see row upon row of bikes parked outside shopping malls and metro stations, which often disrupt both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

A dearth of designated parking space for bikes is one of the problems. On Tuesday, a 32-year-old Beijing resident surnamed Hai had spent several minutes looking for a place to park his bike around Beiyuan Subway Station in -Chaoyang district before deciding to just leave it on the sidewalk. The two-meter-wide stretch of pavement was already blocked with shared bicycles from many bike-sharing companies, leaving little space for pedestrians.

"I know this is not right [to park my bike on the sidewalk]," Hai told the Global Times. "But there is limited parking for bicycles in this area… What else can I do?"

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