Beijing looks to regulate bike-sharing industry

A woman with a Xiaoming bike passes by a line of Ofo and Mobike rentable bicycles in Shanghai, November 29, 2016. Photo: Shen Chunchen/VCG

Beijing is mulling regulations to tackle the increasingly deteriorating traffic problems caused by bicycles operated by bike-sharing firms, the Beijing News reported over the weekend.

The Chinese capital, which is plagued by severe traffic congestion and heavy smog, is set to unveil a series of rules and regulations within this year to standardize the development of the emerging bike-sharing industry and define the obligations and responsibilities of the government and the bike-sharing service providers in its latest effort to promote green travel, according to the report.

Despite high popularity among short-distance commuters in Beijing, the bike-sharing services have caused their own traffic problems by taking space on sidewalks and driveways for parking.

A city management official in charge of the Jiuxianqiao area in Beijing's Chaoyang district pointed out that the illegal parking of such bikes near the subway stations and industrial parks at rush hours in the area under his administration has led to traffic congestion, as more startups have entered the bike-sharing market. The official warned that if the bike parking problem cannot be addressed properly the authorities will have direct talks with the business operators asking them to strengthen internal management.

Another urban management worker complained that they had "no better way" to deal with the bikes left carelessly in the public zones due to the lack of specific rules.

Citing unnamed sources, the report said that the number of bicycles operated by the bike-sharing firms in Beijing skyrocketed to about 200,000 at the beginning of 2017 from the previous 10,000, triggering public concerns over the deterioration of illegal bike parking.

At present, some bike-sharing firms are considering using electronic fence as a way to manage bike parking. The technology will force users to leave bikes in the designated areas after use, otherwise, they will be unable to lock the bikes and complete the payments via their mobile phones. But some experts say that the technology is not feasible for the time being because it will increase operating costs.

At the same time, many bike-sharing firms such as Mobike have pledged to set up more special bike parking zones in Beijing to deal with problems brought by the freewheeling bike parking.

In January, Beijing's Vice Mayor Zhang Jiandong highlighted at the city's annual legislative session that the government will build more designated bike parking lots near the eligible subway stations and transport junctions. But the idea was refuted by some who see being able to park the bikes anywhere as a big advantage of the bike-sharing apps in promoting travel convenience.

So far, the southern city of Shenzhen has taken the initiative to rein in the unregulated sector by sketching out rules last year amid concerns over illegal parking and users' capital safety. In the draft regulation, the city required that the bike-sharing firms must set up a special account for cash pledge that should be supervised by a third party, buy third-party liability insurance and personal accident insurance for users, publicize the charging standards, report the number of their users and bikes as well as the distribution information and use frequency of the bikes to the related watchdogs.

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