Bike-sharing firms struggle with preventing damage, theft

2016-11-25 09:07Global Times Editor: Li Yan ECNS App Download

Zhuang Ji, head of the marketing department at the Shanghai-based contemporary art museum Power Station of Art, has earned the nickname "Golden Hunter" for moving five poorly parked rental bikes to more proper places every day.

Ensuring it is easy for the next cyclist to get on and go is the responsibility of all the users of the popular Mobike rental bicycles, the Golden Hunter is quoted as saying on the company's website.

The bike-sharing app, backed by Internet giant Tencent Holdings, has tens of thousands of bikes in Beijing; Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province; Shenzhen and Guangzhou in South China's Guangdong Province; and Shanghai.

Sharing suffering

Apart from users parking bikes in irresponsible places, vandalism to the QR codes used to unlock the bikes and bikes being hidden or locked with private locks have also given headaches to Mobike and its upstart rival ofo, a newcomer based in Beijing.

According to an August article posted by Travelpage, a WeChat public account focusing on tourism, users have started to pile up orange Mobikes like garbage instead of parking them neatly after three months of the business operating in Shanghai.

Many of the bikes' QR codes have been scratched or painted over, with some even being replaced by fraudulent codes and advertising stickers have been stuck to many of the bikes.

Also, many Mobikes have been stolen or have had their seats, wheels, pedals and even their GPS trackers damaged, the article said.

A Hongkonger surnamed Su was arrested by police shortly after throwing three Mobikes into the Huangpu River in Shanghai. He told the authorities that he was worried the bikes would steal his personal information, Shanghai-based reported on October 25.

About 10 percent of the 20,000 Mobikes in Guangzhou have been damaged to varying degrees, the Guangzhou-based newspaper Yangcheng Evening News reported Tuesday.

However this damage is usually relatively minor, with Tang Ke, an associate director with ofo's public relationship department, telling the Global Times Wednesday that since ofo recently expanded to cover more of Beijing they have not yet seen a significant damage rate.

However, according to WeChat public account "jinzhaoshanghai," the yellow ofo bikes are indeed sharing the unfortunate fate of their orange competitors.

Most poor user behavior is caused by the shortage of available bikes, Tang said, adding that users will not want to put their own locks on sharing bikes when there are always four or five available bikes nearby, and that this situation is what the company aims to achieve in the near future.

Separately, a commentary published by Yangcheng Evening News on Tuesday attributes the high rate of damage to the competition between the sector's major firms, who it claimed are likely to damage their competitors' bikes to earn a higher market share.

Cycle credit

To curb bad user behavior, Mobike has introduced a points system called Mobike Credit, a Mobike PR representative who requested anonymity previously told the Global Times.

New users get 100 credits after registering, and users can get more credits for good behavior and lose credits for being naughty.

For example, reporting a broken bike will earn you 1 credit, according to the users guide on the Mobike app.

Irresponsible parking - for example in a private compound or on a busy road - will lose a user 20 credits and using a private lock will reduce the account to 0 credit right away, read the guide published online.

If a user's credit is under 80 points, they will be charged up to 100 yuan ($14.5) per 30 minutes instead of the usual 1 yuan, said the representative.

If a user damages a bike and it is verified that the user is at fault, the case will be reported to police and the account will be black-listed, he warned.

Ofo bikes were taken good care of when the business was exclusively operated on university campuses, as the campus security and students union assisted the company, Tang explained.

He also revealed that as the company expands their service, ofo will accordingly assign employees to maintain, dispatch, and retrieve bikes from authorized areas.

Each employee will watch around 350 bikes in their designated area, he added.

Tang also said that the company is expecting to reach agreements with local governments where they operate in order to strengthen the supervision of users' behavior.


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