China’s sharing economy is booming and at present the big thing is bike sharing. In tier one cities like Shanghai and Beijing new bike sharing companies seem to pop up every day.
The model is simple.
For a deposit of about $45 USD you can ride any of the thousands of bikes placed around the city.
China is big on QR codes, the square bar codes that your mobile device can read with its camera. The codes can be scanned by major retailers, small shops and street vendors to make purchases, and bike sharing uses this technology to make it easy for anyone with a phone to borrow a bicycle.
All of the bikes have QR codes on them.
So when you need a bike, just scan it and it will unlock. Each ride costs as little as one cent per minute. When you arrive at your location park the bike and your done. The next person can come up and ride your bike just as easily.
The idea is great.
You can use your phone’s GPS to find available bikes and be off on your way in minutes, but in reality things have become a little more complicated.
Some people — mostly youngsters — have found this “free” access to bikes as an excuse to vandalize the property with little worry of consequences.
Bikes have even been found burned and in ditches.
Hopefully the government will find a way to punish those that damage these bikes so that the system isn’t ruined for everyone.
Another problem that has arisen in the land of “little emperors” is that some people are not that good at sharing. In recent months people have been putting locks on the bikes and basically claiming them as their own.
I personally witnessed a young man kick over a bike and wondered why anyone would do such a thing, but with a closer look I saw that the bike he had tried to rent already had a lock on it!
There are so many bicycles available that I find it strange that anyone would need to lock one up for their own.
If it’s that important, why not buy your own?
The latest emerging trend in the Chinese sharing economy is electric scooters or e-bikes.
When I first arrived in Beijing I was told that e-bikes were the easiest way to get around due to the heavy traffic in the city. The ability to rent and share bikes has only made it easier. Hopefully people won’t start vandalizing these bikes or lock them up for personal use.
In short, the bike sharing system in China is really convenient, and it could get people more comfortable with the idea of embracing the sharing economy, but it seems like it is going to take some time to iron out the details.
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