Photo Gallery 048: A Glimpse Of The Dogfight In The Chinese Online Bike-Sharing Market
摘要： What’s the most popular concept in the Chinese internet circle right now? What are the major players in the Chinese online bike-sharing platforms? What's the basic situation of this burgeoning market? What are the major challenges these Chinese online bike-sharing platforms are facing right now? What measures have been taken to regulate the market and prevent improper behaviors?
Online bike-sharing is certainly one of the most popular concepts in the Chinese internet circle right now. On a typical street in Beijing, you can easily see bikes from at least seven platforms, including Mobike, ofo, bluegogo, youan, coolqi, haidian brain power, etc.
This huge battle among various types of bike-sharing platform, coupled with issues such as operation cost, impact on traffic order, capital investment, government regulations, price battle, supply chain and launch scale, etc., can be as dazzling as different colors of these bikes. Nobody knows exactly how this battle is going to end. In TMTpost Photo Gallery 048, let’s have a look at this “dogfight” through the variety of bikes that appeared on Beijing streets almost overnight.
It was February 22nd, 2017. Dongzhimen, Beijing. The pedestrians hurried past a row of shared bicycles. According to third-party report, as of the end of 2016, the overall number of users on the Chinese online shared-bike market has reached 18.86 million, and this figure is expected to reach 50 million by the end of 2017. By the end of February 2017, over 200,000 shared bikes have already been launched simply in Beijing.
Founded in April 2016, Mobike has entered over twenty cities across China and has completed C and D round of financing within the first two months of 2017, raising over $300 million simply in the D round.
It was December 15th, 2016. Haidian District, Beijing. An ofo employee was ofo launching shared bikes on Beijing streets through an electric tricycle. Founded in college campuses at first, ofo decided to expand into cities in November 2016. As of February 2017, it is reported that ofo has covered 35 cities across China. On March 1st, ofo announced that it had completed D round of financing, raising $450 million in total.
On February 21st, bluegogo officially entered the dogfight in Beijing. According to bluegogo’s CEO, they had planned to enter the market as bike manufacturing contractors. However, after their understanding towards the market deepened, they decided to compete head-on with other online bike-sharing platforms.
The internet dogfight urges traditional urban public bike service providers to upgrade their service accordingly. At the beginning of February 2017, BeiJing Public Bicycle APP was launched, so that users, after real-name authentication, can rent bikes through Alibaba’s Ant Financial, Beijing Municipal Administration & Communication Card, or deposit, and that users whose Ant Financial credit point is over 600 can rent bikes without paying the deposit. By the end of 2016, Beijing Public Bicycle launched 68,000 bikes and set up 2,000 rent stations across Beijing. Statistics suggest that 97 per cent of BeiJing Public Bicycle’s users rent bikes for less than an hour each time, which means they can rent bikes for free.
After observing shared-bikes on Beijing streets for over two months, we find that ofo’s bikes, perhaps because they are cheaper, are damaged more often than Mobike’s. It was February 22nd, Yonghegong, Beijing. An ofo bike’s saddle was removed from the bike.
It was February 24th, 2017. Nearby Beijing-Baotou Railway, Beijing. An ofo bike whose inner tube had already been pulled out, was parked against the protection fence. It is obvious that the bike was maliciously sabotaged.
It was January 12th, 2017. An ofo whose rear wheel was perhaps rolled over by a car was parked on the roadside.
It was February 22nd, 2017. A hutong near Fuyou Street, Beijing. An ofo bike’s QR code and number plate were erased. There were at least five ofo bikes that were damaged this way nearby.
An ofo bike whose left pedal disappeared was parked on the ground nearby Chaoyang Joy City Mall, Beijing.
An ofo bike outside Gome First Residential Community was painted in gray. The number plate, the left pedal as well as the lock have all disappeared.
It was January 8th 2017. At ofo’s parking lot outside Chaoyang Joy City Mall, two ofo bikes’ saddles had been removed.
An ofo whose handlebar had been reversed was parked near a residential community near South Two Ring, Beijing. The chain was off, and the bike was locked with a new lock.
Two ofo bikes were locked with chains without permission in a hutong near Art Museum Back Street, Beijing. We learn that there have already been cases where suspects are arrested for locking shared bikes with private locks. According to a lawyer, locking shared bikes with private locks constitutes the infringement of shared bike platforms’ property rights. Based on the Law on Public Security Administration Punishments, suspects can be charged for theft and held under administrative detention.
Besides locking shared bikes with private locks, some people would even bring shared bikes back home and park them in private space. Employees at a car wash parked two ofo bikes inside the facility for convenience sake.
Two pupils were trying to unlock an ofo bike near Chaoyang Road, Beijing. “Sometimes, we can unlock an ofo bike simply by pushing the lock a little bit; there are even no locks sometimes,” they told TMTpost. As long as they can find ofo bikes that are not locked, they can take a fee ride. However, according to China’s traffic safety regulations, children under the age of twelve are forbidden to ride bikes on the road. Although children under the age of twelve can’t register through online bike-sharing APPs, it’s far from enough to prevent such behaviors. Imagine the huge safety hazard out there.
It was Gome Restaurant Street. An adult was riding a Mobike with his kid sitting in the basket.
It was the evening rush hour of February 22nd, 2017. Chaoyangmen, Beijing. To fetch her kid, a mother let the kid ride an ofo bike, while she walked closely beside him. Recently, online bike-sharing platforms have teamed up with municipal or local education, communication bureaus and started to regulate improper behaviors such as letting kids under the age of twelve ride shared bikes or sit in the basket.
A piece ofad, promoting illegal credit card cash out service, was stuck onto aMobike’s basket support plate. At present, no online bike-sharing platform has found a steady business model and profit point. Some analysts believethat bike body ads may be the most obvious profit point, while others believe that a gigantic amount of big data gathered through users’ day-to-day usage is of the highest value and should be further exploited to provide other services.
Random parking has always been a major challenge for online bike-sharing platforms. A Mobike was parked inside the green belt area near Qingnian Road, Beijing.
An ofo bike was parked inside the green belt area near Laiguangying Subway Station.
It was the morning rush hour of January 10th 2017. D Exit, Qingnianlu Subway Station, Beijing. White-collar workers would ride shared bikes to the exit and left these bikes on the walkway. Some bikes were even parked on the side road.
It was the morning rush hour of January 10th 2017. D Exit, Qingnianlu Subway Station, Beijing. A caretaker was throwing Mobike and ofo bikes away from the entry of the parking lot. “Why are there people who park bikes as they wish and never care if they will affect other people?” she complained.
It was February 24rd. D exit of Qingnianlu Subway Station. A Mobike’s maintenance personnel was arranging Mobike bikes in order. According to him, he and his partner were in charge of around 400 Mobike’s bikes near three Exits of Qingnianlu Subway Station. He was supposed to be on patrol all day. “Most people are well educated and won’t park bikes randomly after usage. After all, why bother to find fault with bikes?” he told TMTpost.
A part-time offline promotion specialist was introducing passers-by how to use ofo bikes in front of a row of brand new ofo bikes. He could earn five yuan for each new user he invited, while other platforms often paid two to three yuan for each new signup.
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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @flybutchery, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.