Once known as the ‘Bicycle Kingdom’, China has a great history of urban cycling and was possibly the first great bicycle nation.
Despite a wholehearted commitment to car-culture in more recent time, tech startups have since revealed an unexploited niche in the bike-sharing market, and the country has seen a resurgence in bicycle-driven enterprise.
This has been catalysed by tech-bike startups Mobike, Ofo and Bluegogo! Bike-share startups that have created systems aiming to deliver all of the ease of cycling, while eliminating any possible inconvenience. Conveniently, their bikes are coordinated inMobike orange, Ofo yellow, And blue gogo!
This is the reinvention of bike-sharing for the smartphone era. There is no need for docking, and a smooth user interface on the app guides users to the nearest bike.
Rapidly expanding, these bikes are now distributed in cities all across china. Ofo has grown from one city to twenty three in just ten months, and gathered more than ten million users.
The long-term effect of these cycles on their host cities remains to be seen, but such easy access to cycling has the potential to precipitate mass change. Citizens of Shanghai are already seeing the effects, including reduced reliance on public transit and, presumably a reduction in city centre car use.
However these schemes are not without their downsides. Their popularity has meant large clusters of bikes are often left haphazardly parked outside transport nodes, along with problems of theft and vandalism, and damaged bikes being left discarded on the street.
These are all problems that the startups will have to negotiate as they expand internationally. These companies are now scoping out cities in South-east Asia, the US and Europe for further expansion.
This means liaising with local and national authorities on the regulations for bike-sharing, and could catalyse further bike-centred enterpise.
Mobike is moving on to Singapore, where Ofo already have 1000 bikes, and Ofo has plans for Cambridge. Bluegogo has chosen San Francisco, and plans to take 20000 bikes to the city. These primary coloured bikes could soon be populating cities across the planet.
However, if these schemes are to succeed, it is up to our governments to welcome them. we need a conducive business environment, supportive government initiatives, and urban design that accommodates the needs of mass cycling.