The Rise of Smart Cities
If you happen to live in a big city anywhere in the world, it goes without saying that one thing that is always important for anyone living the urban city life is the quality of public transportation. When moving into a new city, many will choose to move close to their employer to lower the commute and will create a public transportation budget to take care of the daily cost of trains, buses and/or taxis. Others will get a car and deal with the stress of cluttered traffic and the constant frustration of going nowhere slowly. In Japan, for instance, it would take you 2-3 times the time to get to your destination in a car rather then just riding a bike. This is because most cities were built without the preparation of vehicle traffic, thus suffering one lane and one-way roads not made for a growing population of vehicle owners. This was part of the reason why smart cities have and now are being pushed worldwide. A smart city is a city build on a more modern platform to help combat daily stresses of most cities such as pollution, lack of engagement with the population and out of date innovations.
The Surge of Smart Transportation
With a global movement of smart cities being pushed. China has been one of the forerunners to begin funding efforts to make its growing cities more modern, less cluttered and less polluted. One of the biggest innovations of these changing cities has been in transportation. New metro lines are being built to cater to more of the city population – allowing for faster and cleaner commutes as well as new buses running on natural gas. If you have lived in a metro or bus friendly zone, you will quickly learn that these methods are perfect for getting around in an affordable way and offer the luxury of not having to spend thousands on a new vehicle. The usual shock for anyone moving into a suburb area is the lack of this element usually only seen inside the city. Although those methods have done great in lowering pollution and offering affordable alternatives to transportation, they still have their limitations – especially for those who maybe work only 3 or 4 blocks away who would rather walk or take a bike. This brought a new demand within the urban areas for bikes and electronic bikes.
The Bike Craze in China
E-bike industry has his over $11 million in China alone as more and more residents find this alternative way of transportation to be a cost saver and a more compact way of transportation. The E-bike movement exploded in 2011 but had its limitations with certain demographics such as students who cross many stairs and bridges, hills (most e-bikes cant push up steep areas) and cost (although they run cheaper then your going motorbike, they still will cost a pretty penny). From this hurdle, the bike rental industry emerged raising hundreds of millions of dollars in city funding in hopes of lowering the growing issue of pollution in China as well as elevating the smart city theme by offering yet another alternative and convenient way of transportation.
The Start of Mobike and the Bike-Sharing Industry
Davis Wang, a former Uber executive from Shanghai, founded Mobike. It was the first major online bike sharing service to hit China with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and a fast expansion across all major cities. This growth did not come without challenges with many other companies jumping on the bike-sharing bandwagon causing a competitive industry to emerge among bike providers and international investors. With over 10 bike sharing companies now targeting China, the demand for more bikes is still pushing these providers to seek more funding. Mobike signed a deal with FOXXCON (who also makes the iPhone) in January to produce another 10 million bikes as the demand for more bikes pushing for a constant production. So far, Mobike has raised over 215 million to keep up with the demand for the bike-sharing craze in China.
“The bicycle services are more competitive than the car-sharing industry was in the days of Uber versus Didi, and it’s more welcome by the government, so less regulated.””
-Chen Li, assistant professor of marketing at the China Europe International Business School
How does Mobike Bike-Sharing Work?
With most providers of bike sharing, the service works through an app very similar to the popular Uber or Didi app. That said, it’s a bit funny that the founder of Mobike is a former Uber executive while a close competitor, OFO is founded by a former Didi executive (food for thought). You would simply scan a bike to download the app to your phone. Many of the accounts will require a deposit. In Mobike’s case, the deposit is about 400RMB, which you can receive back if you so choose to cancel your service. After going through a security protocol of filling out your China ID information or sending photos of your passport (if you are a foreigner), you will be granted access to use the bikes of your chosen service.
Once you open the app, it shows a map with all of the bike locations around you. Once you have found your bike of choice, you simply scan it with the app and it will unlock and begin tracking your trip via GPS.
Once you have arrived at your location, simply lock the bike to end the trip and the charge will be shown on your phone as an alert. I would note to be certain to lock the bike after the trip as many will forget and wonder why they are being charged extra as someone else just enjoyed a free ride (talking from personal experience).
Why Pay a Mobike Deposit?
My initial shock with starting a Mobike service was the 400RMB deposit, which does not go towards your bike usage. Mobike, along with its competitors understand that many users will not have the same respect and treatment of the rented bikes; therefore, the deposit is there to cover the ongoing maintenance and/or replacement of broken or damaged bikes. Many city workers, who obviously do not work for Mobike or OFO will throw rental bikes in piles in order to do street maintenance or even just to clear up space. This doesn’t stop the hordes of traveling workers and students to pull them out of the piles and used the abused vehicles to get to their locations.
That said, many times, when riding a rented bike you will notice a bent tire, a kick stand that doesn’t work, a broken bell and the list goes on. To cut them some slack, I have found that once you stop your trip, you can send in a note of your damaged bike and Mobike will track and remove it for maintenance.
English Bike-Sharing Apps in China
Mobike as well as Blue GoGo both have dowloadable apps in English. If you are like me, my first glance at a Mobike came with the quick counter thought of “great idea, but its in Chinese.” One day, I had successfully gotten myself lost while exploring and found a stray Mobike which I scanned just out of desperation to try to find a quicker way back to where I came from. I was shocked to see that the app was in English and walked me through the process quick quickly. Unfortunately, I never got to use the bike since the vetting process takes time but it was good to see a Chinese service that is catered to English speakers.
What is your Mobike story?
Got a personal story of Mobike or a bike rental? Share it below in the comment section!