From Beijing to Tibet, riders can grab a yellow, blue, green, or orange bike by opening a smartphone app and pointing their camera at a QR code that releases a lock for as low as 1 yuan (15 US cents). Once the ride’s over, they simply park the bike and apply the lock.
Some 30 different providers wrestling for market share have placed more than 3 million bikes on streets around the country, according to state media. There were 18.9 million users of shared bicycles nationwide in 2016 and that number is expected to rise to 50 million by the end of this year, according to the China E-Commerce Research Center.
But many users of these bikes simply them in the middle of sidewalks or abandon them haphazardly on freeways. (Boost your cycling street smarts for safer, savvier riding with tips from The Bicycling Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills!)
In recent weeks, police around the country have impounded thousands of bikes that were discarded in piles. But companies plan to put thousands more on the streets.
When Bikeshare Goes Bad
“I like the convenience of cycling instead of taking the subway, but the system backfires when the sheer amount of bikes causes traffic jams in some areas,” 21-year-old Beijing student Zhang Wei told AFP. “Many people also don’t know how to bike very well and it is annoying when they swerve around or cycle in the wrong direction,” said Zhang.
Plus, riding rules that do exist are often ignored. This has culminated in fatal accidents in recent months, including the death of a child using Ofo bikeshare, spurring officials into action.
Road laws in China already ban children under age 12 from riding on public roads, but state media reports say children are frequently seen riding the colourful bikes to school. An Ofo spokeswoman told AFP the company runs campaigns to encourage parents and teachers to keep…