China used to be known “kingdom of bicycles” prior to the 1990s. There were over one billion bicycles in China in the 1980s, almost one bicycle per person. However, with growing economy and rapid urbanization, China has entered the era of cars and the number of Chinese riding bicycles has dropped sharply, resulting in traffic congestion and air pollution which pose serious challenges for the sustainable urban development.
The trend is changing again since 2015. As bike-sharing services are springing up and bicycles are back on streets, it seems that China, all of a sudden, has regained its traditional title as kingdom of bicycles. However, the colorful bikes on Chinese streets are not owned by the riders themselves, instead, they are of high-tech models owned by over a dozen of bike sharing companies. A cyclist uses a smart-phone App to locate and unlock a bike as well as pay for the use of the bike. The bike can be picked up and dropped off whenever the user wants. It is simple, economic, environment-friendly and healthy to use bike sharing service, which has become stylish among young Chinese generations.
“2017 White Paper on Bike Sharing and City Development” shows that Chinese bike sharing companies provided about 2 millions bikes to users in 2016 and the amount will increase to nearly 20 millions in 2017, which is about 10 times of number of last year. There were 700,000 shared bikes available in Beijing city in May 2017.
In less than one year of operations in Chinese cities, innovative and smart bike sharing has more than doubled the use of bicycles (from 4.8% to 11.6%), and reduced the rate of car travel by 3.2%. Bike sharing is now no.4 major travel means in China after private car, public transport and subways.
Bike share users’ mileage from 2015 has exceeded 2.5 billion kilometers, which is about 3,300 round-trips from the earth to the moon. It also means a reduction of 540,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, a reduction of 4.5 billion µg of PM2.5 particles, or a reduction of total mileage of 170,000 cars in one year. Bike sharing also helps save urban space by relieving cities of building car parking lots which are equivalent to the total area of 600,000 average-sized apartments.
The rapid growth of bike sharing in China can be attributed to the fast, massive, integrated and innovative applications in China of high-technology such as internet, internet of things, intelligent terminals, mobile payment, big data and navigation. China is ranked no. 22 in 2017 and no.25 in 2016 in the Global Innovation Index Report published by World Intellectual Property Organization and Cornell University. It is also the only medium-income country among the 25 most innovative countries. Experts attribute China’s innovation capacity to the facts that China has been implementing national strategy of innovation-driven development, making great efforts in energy conservation and emission reductions, and introducing active and ambitious policies for addressing climate change. The booming bike sharing service has become a showcase of China’s outstanding performance in innovation.
Currently bike sharing service has covered 50 cities in over 20 Chinese provinces (autonomous regions and directly-controlled municipalities). Chinese companies are willing to share their experience and have successfully introduced their bike sharing business in Singapore, UK and Italy. Mobike, the world’s largest bicycle operator, started its operation in Manchester, UK in 2017 and provides bike rent service at 50 pennies per 30 minutes (a deposit of 20 British pounds required, but refundable at any time). Such low tariff has astonished the local British who have been used to expensive living. Negotiations are under way for bike sharing business to enter Australia, USA, Japan and Malaysia. Recent votes by young people of 20 countries along the Belt & Road route have concluded that bike sharing, high-speed rail, Alipay ( also known as zhifubao) and online shopping are the four new great Chinese inventions. China, a nation whose ancient “four great inventions” had historically promoting world progress, is now impressing the world with new concept of green development supported by strong capacities in science, technology and innovation.
Denmark has been a kingdom of bicycles for many years. It has rich experience in cyclist-friendly policy, management, safety, infrastructure, and smart cities. China’s bike sharing is a rather new and innovative business, which has to brace the challenges of bike loss, damage and abandonment, safety management, urban planning, and social credibility. In this regard, there are great potentials for complementary and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Denmark, both known as kingdom of bicycles. Strong and innovative cooperation between China and Denmark in the sector of bike sharing will provide a novel solution of sustainable transportation and make great contribution to green global growth. M