Russian cyclists ride public bikes in Blagoveshchensk.
After a 10-minute boat ride across the Heilong River from the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk, Elena Komisarova arrived in Heihe, Heilongjiang province, on Sunday morning.
Using a smart card purchased in Blagoveshchensk, she borrowed a bike from a rental point near the wharf and returned it 15 minutes later at Central Pedestrian Street.
"It's convenient that the card can be used in both Blagoveshchensk and Heihe," said the 29-year-old woman. "Young people like me in our city like shopping in Heihe, and riding on the tidy and clean roads is enjoyable.
"I can return the bike anywhere I want to stop," she said. "There is no worry about it being stolen."
There are 131 self-service docking stations on street corners－every 300 meters in Heihe－and 21 in Blagoveshchensk, which can provide 4,180 bikes for more than 20,000 registered users.
After paying an initial deposit, generally about 260 yuan (), users can pick up bikes and return them to any docking station.
The first hour is free, rising to roughly 1 yuan an hour thereafter in Heihe, while users pay 10 roubles (17 U.S. cents) for the first hour in Blagoveshchensk.
Operated by Changzhou Youon Public Bicycle System, public bikes in Heihe started in May 2012 with 1,000 bikes, and developed steadily in the following years.
"People in Heihe have accepted the public bikes," said Cao Lei, deputy manager of the company's Heihe branch. "This green transportation method has motivated more people to start to ride.
"Because the public bikes have immovable racks on which bikes must be locked, there are no users leaving bikes randomly without obeying the regulations, which may cause traffic disorder and unnecessary damage."
The utilization is high, clocking in at more than 30,000 rides in Heihe a day.
In September 2015, the company expanded the business into Blagoveshchensk, less than 1.6 km away across the Heilong River.
"We aim to provide a convenient transportation method for both Chinese and Russian people and deepen friendship," said Niu Hailong, the manager of the company's Blagoveshchensk branch. "The utilization rate is reaching 45 percent in the city, and (the service) is becoming well known by more residents."
Kovtun Aleksandra, 20, a sophomore student at Heihe University, said: "Every time I go to the supermarket or enjoy leisure time along the Heilong River, I will choose the public bikes. I've also experienced the convenience of public bikes in Blagoveshchensk.
"I hope someday the bikes can appear in my hometown, Belogorsk, a town 140 km from Blagoveshchensk," she added.