China is promoting the idea of ‘Green Travel’ to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. Bike-sharing has been introduced in many cities. Here in the capital Beijing, the program is in its fifth year. How is it running?

After a cold winter, spring is the season to get on your bike. And public bicycles help make it easy.

The first time you rent a public bike in Beijing, bring your ID to register your subway card. Then, with a 200 yuan deposit — or 400 yuan if you’re not a local resident — you’re ready to ride.

With my card registered, I can now get a bike at any renting site like this. Now let’s do it.

The bike is free for the first hour, then one yuan an hour after that. The maximum daily fee is ten yuan, deducted from your subway card.

With plenty of renting sites, the bikes are handy for zipping around the city.

But not in the western Haidian district, where there’s no docking place, which means I have to stop here and turn to other means of public transportation.

Although Beijing has 50 thousand public bikes, site management is up to each of its 16 districts. So the bikes aren’t evenly distributed, and suburban districts use separate systems.

However, as the Green Travel concept grows more popular, the need for bike-sharing will rise. OFO, a campus-based start-up is helping meet that need.

“Through our online platform, students can pool their bikes for shared use, which means thousands of bikes are available for any OFO user,” Xue Ding, Co-founder of OFO Bike Sharing, said.

OFO now covers 17 universities and has more than 30 thousand users. The company says city planning officials have proposed a project to jointly develop a community-based bike-sharing service.

“It’s a good example of a sharing economy to mobilize social resources to promote public transport. While public bikes should be funded and managed by the government, it’s surely a good idea to pool private bikes for public use,” Chen Yanyan from Beijing University of Technology’s College of Metropolitan Transportation, said.

Beijing plans to add another 10,000 public bicycles this year. But for its 10 million-plus commuters, cyclists need even more bikes, and riders, more options.

Mar. 21, 2016 on China.org.cn

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