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With a rocky start to the world of share bikes in Australia's capital cities, can China, the original homeland of share-biking, teach Australia a thing or two about how to regulate them?
Lucy Lv

17 Oct 2017 - 4:16 PM  UPDATED 17 Oct 2017 - 4:16 PM

Share bike brands oBike and Reddy Go began rolling out across Australian cities earlier this year beginning with Melbourne, and followed by Sydney, but lately they've been running into some issues.

Social media users have taken photos of the bikes being left on rooftops, stuck on trees or drowning in Melbourne's Yarra River and councils are now cracking down. 

The clean-up efforts for this dumping has become costly for councils and so some have now announced they will begin issuing fines to the share bike companies for dumped bikes. 

Sydney's Randwick council last week issued a statement targeting the dockless bikes' lack of designated parking zones, leaving the bikes "strewn across our suburbs."

Randwick Mayor Lindsay Shurey told the Sydney Morning Herald, "We'll be seeking an agreement with the operators that they fund and implement appropriate bike parking locations or face financial penalties."

Three Melbourne councils have now followed suit, imposing a new one year agreement on oBike to prevent further bicycle dumping.

As part of this, oBike will have to remove dangerously parked bicycles within two hours, while bikes that are faulty, damaged or unsafe are to be removed from service and from public access within 24 hours.

Users must also leave their bikes:

  • Always parked upright.
  • Not dumped at a single location, with no more than six bicycles per 200 metres allowed.
  • Not left on steps, ramps, traffic islands, trees, buildings or light poles

"We're working with the councils to see if we can have dedicated parking spaces in busy or crowded areas to make sure that the bikes are not left all over the place," oBike company spokesperson Chenthan Rangaswamy told The Age.

What would China do? 

Since kicking off in China in 2016, share-biking has become a national symbol of China’s sharing economy.

Chinese news agency Xinhua recently named the new 'Four Great Inventions of China,' listing share bikes alongside Alipay, high-speed rail and e-commerce.

Share bikes in China have faced the same problems as they currently do in Australia. They have been left broken, taken home, or misplaced by users. They have been left to rot under highway bridges and taken apart to sell.

Yang Xinmiao, associate Professor from China’s top university Tsinghua told Chinanews that share bikes should be taken into consideration as part of government’s urban planning process.

Share bikes in China were initiated by the private sector, however local municipal governments stepped in when the situation got 'out of control.' 

For the most part though, the Chinese regulations seek to punish bike-riders themselves for misuse of the bikes, rather than the companies.

In June, Shenzhen Police issued regulations in the hope of curbing inappropriate behaviour of share bike users.

It specifies that misuse of share bikes is against traffic regulations and that the riding rights of those users caught breaking the rules will be taken away for a week.

The Police department in the City of Nanjing, in cooperation with its eight local share bike providers, is keeping a black list of ‘bad users.'

The city of Shanghai has also met with local providers of share bikes and ordered that children under 12 years of age will not be allowed to use share bikes.

Share bike companies in China have proactively sought out measures to regulate the use of share bikes.

Vic Zhao, the CEO of Shanghai-based company 100bike told SBS Mandarin that they have sought to solve this issue "in a three-part method of technology innovation, management upgrade and public education."

Like most share bike companies in China, 100bike has put up bike ranks in multiple locations across the city. When customers return their bikes, those parked outside of the rank will be charged extra.

It has also utilised location-based technology to keep track of their bikes and have staff remove the ones misplaced - not dissimilar to what is now being rolled out in Sydney and Melbourne. 

As a result, some Chinese citizens have begun to voluntarily put share bikes back in their designated areas and take pride in the number of bikes they replace, adopting superhero-like names on social media such as ‘share bike man.'

The Chinese government's regulation of share bikes has met with criticism from some netizens, as they express dissatisfaction towards the government’s "interfering with" the privately-run industry.

100bike CEO Vic Zhao tells SBS Mandarin that the company "welcomes the Shanghai government’s assistance in regulating share bikes."

"The government has helped protect the share bike industry from 'brutal growth,'" says Zhao. 

Like many other share bike companies, 100bike also has its eye on the global market, so perhaps we could soon see it join oBike and more down under.