Chinese cities used to be full of bicycle commuters. Hordes of cyclists would collect at every stoplight on their simple, sturdy, low-cost commuter bikes.
The availability of very cheap small cars—and the image of being up-scale and modern—cut into cycling’s popularity.
Bike-share apps are bringing back those fleets of bicycles.
New companies are using new technology to offer cheap bikes. Now consumers can grab a bike, scan a QR tag with their smart phones, and ride away.A ride costs about 14 cents.
Better still, the bikes can be left at the rider’s destination. Bikes collect in heaps outside subway entrances. The people getting off the trains grab the bikes left by those getting on.
“I can ride it at any time I want, and when I’m tired I can just take some other form of public transportation,” explained Hou Zhantu, a 28-year-old assistant restaurant manager from Beijing.
“Because you can ride it anytime, anywhere, it’s really convenient to ride.”
Companies are competing fiercely for a share of the growing market.
Industry leader Ofo is now a billion-dollar company. It claims 20 million registered users. It plans to expand to Singapore, the U.K., and the U.S.
Ofo plans to add 15 million bikes to its current fleet of 5 million.