Bike Sharing System Mobike Introduced in Berlin
BERLIN, Germany – On 21 November Chinese bike sharing operator Mobike celebrated its German debut in the country’s capital Berlin. Today’s largest bike sharing system outside China was founded in 2015 and the company expects that “more German cities will follow soon.”
On the launch event Mobike’s Vice President International Chris Martin said that “we were very pleased to have productive and welcoming discussions with city officials to introduce our model of responsible operations, and look forward to deliver our mission of improving city residents’ quality of life.” The timing of Mobike introduction in Berlin has a nice connotation; it is the company’s 200th location worldwide while the country is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the bicycle invented by Karl Drais in the German city of Mannheim.
Mobike in eleven countries
Mobike claims “to be working now in 200 cities globally, operating more than 7 million bikes. The platform supports more than 30 million rides a day at peak times, with over 200 million registered users, making it the largest smart bike sharing companies in the world.”
Mobike was initially launched in Shanghai in April 2016, and has ever since expanded across China and eleven other countries, including Singapore, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, the United States and now Germany. Last January the company even signed an exclusive strategic partnership with Foxconn Technology Group, known as the manufacturer of Apple iPhones, in a move to double its annual bicycle production capacity to more than 10 million units.
Foxconn was not the first to join the investment boom in Chinese bike sharing companies. This issue was also stipulated in the e-bike anti-dumping complaint EBMA filed at the European Commission last October.
According to EBMA, “the market entry of bike-sharing companies in 2016 introduced a new source of excess supplies in the Chinese bicycle market. Competing via volume and subsidised prices, sharing companies like Mobike and Ofo flooded big Chinese cities with bicycles, leading to a tremendous oversupply of sharing bicycles within less than 12 months.”
Why now in Germany? Fact is that Singaporean competitor Obike started last August in Munich and in October in Frankfurt am Main. And it seems that Mobike was closely watching Obike’s German market debut. They try to avoid the mistakes Obike made when starting in Munich. Without talking to any city officials, Obike invaded the city with 7.000 rental bikes what raised concerns and anger among the population.
Initially Mobike will bring on a small number of bikes to the streets of Berlin. That’s how they want to introduce the service to the public and gather feedback from users and city administrators. “More bikes will be added gradually based on growing demand to satisfy local needs, and in consultation with local authorities,” says Chris Martin.
Data sharing with local authorities
To enhance the operation efficiently, Mobike developed an artificial intelligence platform called Magic Cube. This platform provides intelligent solutions to the most pressing urban traffic and transport challenges through big data analytics. “We work closely together with city officials using the Magic Cube platform’s data to fine-tune the optimal number of bikes in a city and to ensure an orderly operation. Aggregated data can be shared with city planners to inform smart cycling infrastructure and urban planning,” explains Chris Martin.
Such cooperation with city council officials is desperately needed for bike sharing system operators like Mobike. In particular as in Amsterdam the rapid growth of bike sharing systems created a lot of frustration with citizens asking the city council to act. Amsterdam has announced to start removing these bikes at least when put in public areas for the purpose of renting them.
In view of the rapid growth of bike sharing systems in European cities and of the annoyance they can create like in Amsterdam an intra-industry forum and stakeholder platform has been launched by the ECF. It’s named Europe-wide Platform on Bicycle Sharing & Systems (PEBSS) and is part of the CIC (Cycling Industry Club) network.