Now That Bike-Sharing is Wicked Convenient, Beijing Steps in to Make it Less So
The rapid rise of bike-sharing in China can be boiled down to a single selling point: it's so convenient. Just by scanning a QR code into your phone, you can be off riding a bicycle in seconds flat. And yet, Beijing has just imposed new restrictions on bike-sharing that will make using it a hassle for some people.
The transportation municipal administration of Xicheng District recently introduced a new regulation that has banned shared bikes from parking on 10 of the district's roads.
From now on, you may not park your bike in Lingjing Hutong (灵境胡同), the vicinity of Xi'anmen Boulevard (西安门大街沿线), Xihuanchenggen South Street (西黄城根南街), Nanbeichang Street (南北长街), Fuyou Street (府右街), the west side of Dahuitang Road (大会堂西侧路), the vicinity of Chang'an Street (长安街沿线), Taipusi Street (太仆寺街), Bingbuwa Hutong (兵部洼胡同), and Shibei Hutong (石碑胡同).
Mobike and Ofo, China's top two leading bikeshare companies, have already signed agreements with the city. The two companies have agreed to patrol the area and take away any wayward bicycles as well as notify their customers of the new rule through social media and companies apps.
The ban will be heavily enforced by both the public and private sectors. The city will have its boots on the ground in the form of its chengguan, traffic police, Public Security Bureau, and street workers while the bikeshare companies are warning its clients that violators of the parking ban will have credit deductions on their accounts.
The Xicheng parking ban is extended to all other non-motorized bikes as well. However, the district has said it will create bicycle parking racks that will be located near subway stations and other main traffic arteries.
While this sounds like a civil plan, bike racks are anathema to a bikeshare user because they makes its best selling point redundant. By using a shared bike instead of owning one, a user doesn't have to worry about the consequences of where they park. Although some bikeshares use bicycle racks, both Mobike and Ofo do not, allowing their users to track down available bicycles using GPS tracking.
Unfortunately, this key feature of the Chinese bike-sharing economy has become a hideous problem for a number of cities that include Beijing.
As users callously park their rentals in places with no regard to the public, shared bikes have quickly become an eyesore as well as a "threat to public safety." Some 5,000 shared bikes were confiscated in Shanghai earlier this month after city authorities considered them to be a "nuisance."
Even before the Xicheng parking ban, bike-sharing has come under fire as it continues to rise in popularity. Beijing recently put a halt to electric bicycle-sharing service E-zebra, while the deposits required by users for these bikeshare companies have been called into question.
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