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EU Platform Warns Cities of China’s App Based, Dockless Bike Sharing

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BRUSSELS, Belgium – With China’s two biggest bike-share providers – Mobike and Ofo – expanding to Europe the EU Platform for bike sharing is warning cities about their ‘disruptive’ operating modes. This is expressed in a Position Paper by the Europe-wide Platform on Bicycle Sharing & Systems (PEBSS).

EU Platform Warns Cities of China’s App Based, Dockless Bike Sharing
PEBSS developed its Position Paper as it does not want European cities being swamped with cheap public bikes operating without pictures docking stations. Photo Wikimedia

The PEBSS paper is named “Common Position Paper on Unlicensed Dockless Bike Share”. The platform says it’s “A comprehensive guide to deal with the different – and sometimes problematic – approaches of bike share operators.”

Disruptive innovation

This position paper explains and addresses what PEBSS calls “The disruptive innovation of app-based, un-anchored and un-licensed bike share schemes, and how that may affect Western markets as they expand aggressively. Directed towards cities and their local transport authorities, it succinctly describes opportunities and threats of such systems.”

The PEBSS Position Paper comes at the time when China’s ofo bike sharing is eying a start in Europe. It comes after a consortium led by Alibaba is investing US$700 million (€615m) in ofo; the world’s largest bike sharing company. With these millions ofo is to conquer the world starting with Europe.  

Mobike, the other leading bike-share provider in China, has already established a foothold in Europe. It started last month its app-based bike-sharing service in Manchester and Salford, UK.

European cities swamped with public bikes

Obviously PEBSS developed its Position Paper as it does not want European cities being swamped with cheap public bikes like what’s taking place now in for instance China’s Capital  Beijing. Here many sidewalks are impassable because of hundreds of thousands brightly coloured public bikes. The yellow ofo’s, together with the orange Mobikes, represent the majority of such public bikes that litter nowadays all major cities in China. Such problems come with the fact that public bikes in China do not have to be returned to docking stations. They simply use QR codes to be scanned by smartphones for unlocking. The costs of one ofo bike ride stands at CNY 1 (€0,13) for 1 hour. But ofo customers have to pay a deposit, and have to put money in their account to share a bicycle. This is where the business models of the Chinese bike share providers is based on together with data collection of its users.

‘Policy Framework for Smart Public-use Bike Sharing’

Next to its Common Position Paper on Unlicensed Dockless Bike Share PEBSS has also issued another strategic document. In collaboration with UITP, NABSA and Bikeplus, the EU Platform for bike sharing is presenting the official “Policy Framework for Smart Public-use Bike Sharing”. It targets cities looking for strategic guidance for the implementation or upgrade of a bike sharing system.

This framework is meant to help local administrations and transport authorities of cities, understand the role of bike sharing schemes in their mobility plans, and sets best practices to ensure that bike share is fully embraced as an essential component of a city’s public transport network.

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