Bike sharing is good! This could be the beginning and the end of this posting…Oh, well, let me elaborate some. I have lived in China for a number of years. Over that period of time, me and countless others in the country as well as visitors, have observed an incredible growth of its economy, but more importantly – the growth of innovation. Yes, Innovation in China!
Many years ago, both in the US and in other countries, the various city governments started developing Bike Sharing programs. They relied on a very cumbersome system where you had to rent as well as return, the bike at a predefined station around the city. That system has been nothing but trouble. The stations were few, the programs to implement those stations and bikes – very expensive!
As a result (in my opinion) those Bike Sharing programs were doomed and I doubt many still exist today. I wrote about some of these programs on this blog…
Then Chinese entrepreneurs innovated! Companies like Mobike and Ofo emerged (and several other newcomers followed).
The innovation these companies developed allowed the users to scan a QR code, receive a code via messaging on their smart phones and unlock the bike for use. The bicycle then remains in your possession, and you are paying for it, until you lock it. The convenience factor is huge! Why? You can pickup / unlock and start using a bicycle pretty much anywhere on the street in a Chinese city, and similarly, drop off the bike on the sidewalk after you reach your destination.
The result – a great service for the users as well as low cost for the local governments – no longer do they have to fund the construction and maintenance of expensive bike stations.
Finally, in the US, local companies have noticed and together with some city governments are implementing similar system. Way to go China! The US is borrowing from your playbook!
Now, I am expecting another wave of innovation – the bikes are becoming a perfect platform for adding new services and capabilities. I fully imagine a wide range of sensors to be integrated in the next generation bikes to enable new services for us the users and new streams of revenue for the bike sharing operators.
US companies like SPIN and LimeBike are getting funding to start operating what appears to be a proxy of the vary successful (from my, user experience) model of the Chinese companies. Hope they succeed. The US, with the lack of public transportation is a good ground for such services…!