China has witnessed a bike-sharing boom in the past two years. Colorful shared bikes on the streets, linking users with the public transit networks, have contributed a lot to solving the "last mile" problem.
Given the massive growth in usage, Chinese bike-sharing operators represented by Mobike and ofo have now started to expand into the global markets. However, the smart two-wheelers so popular at home are enduring a less smooth ride overseas.
Mobike began its global expansion by rolling into Singapore last March. However, in the past four months, only a small number of the silver and orange bikes have been deployed, and many ended up being confiscated because of illegal parking.
A local resident explained, "Shared bikes are not popular here, because it's too hot, and people don't really want to ride bicycles. Besides, the public transport is very convenient, so there is no need for such an alternative."
In addition, it is reported that some local Singaporean companies criticized ofo for alleged unethical competition and evading public space permit fees.
Bluegogo, another Chinese bike-sharing company, also encountered difficulties during its expansion into San Francisco. In a letter to Li Gang, the CEO of Bluegogo, earlier this year, the directors of several municipal departments pointed out the company had violated local laws and exclusive agreements other companies had signed.
However, shared-bike startups are being welcomed in British cities such as Oxford and Manchester. Louise Upton, a councilor of Oxford City Council spoke highly of bike-sharing, hoping more people would use them as an environmentally-friendly means of getting around.
Hellobike has entered the Japanese market lately, reaching cooperative agreements with a number of universities. "I like riding shared bikes, because my workplace is far from bus stops, and it's sweaty to walk there," said a local resident.
According to Zhang Siding, a co-founder of ofo, faced with fierce competition, bike-sharing operators rushed to fill the streets with their smart bikes to show potential investors the promising prospects of the program.
However, the mixed experience shows that while pursuing overseas development, bike-sharing companies have to take into account local laws, regulations and urban development plans if they want to see their bikes rolling smoothly through the streets, said Zhang Lidong, the editor-in-chief of the China Civil Entrepreneur magazine.