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New rules set to improve the use of shared bikes

CHINA yesterday issued national guidelines governing bike-sharing operations in a bid to nurture a new industry credited with spurring a transport revolution while addressing mounting complaints over an accumulation of millions of bikes on city streets.

The guidelines urge cities to come up with plans to integrate the use of rented bikes in overall traffic planning.

Issued by the Ministry of Transport and nine other ministries and agencies, they say users of bike-sharing services should register under their real names.

The ministry released a draft version of the guidelines in May to solicit public opinion, receiving 780 suggestions.

The guidelines call on authorities to tighten controls on the parking of bikes, devise systems to penalize offenders, develop standards on maintenance and bicycle life spans, and ban their use by children under 12.

The bikes, which can be unlocked using a mobile phone app and left anywhere the rider pleases, have been seized upon by commuters as a cheap and convenient way to navigate congested cities.

But a stampede into the market by providers has left sidewalks in Shanghai, Beijing and many other urban centers cluttered with bikes that are often broken down or left haphazardly parked by users outside designated zones.

Safety issues have also arisen, including the death of a Shanghai primary school student who was struck by a bus in March.

The guidelines, expected to be implemented by city authorities across the country, also urge closer government supervision of bike-sharing companies’ financial operations to head off an increase in customer disputes, as well as the establishment of mechanisms for handling complaints.

Shanghai and Tianjin announced their own regulations last month, mandating a service life of three years for bikes and requiring companies to hire at least one maintenance employee for every 200 bicycles.

The sector exploded from virtually nothing about a year ago to what is now an urban transport phenomenon.

China has around 70 bike-sharing brands, which have put more than 16 million bicycles on the streets and attracted more than 130 million users, according to the ministry.

The government has thrown its support behind the concept as a green transport option, and sector leaders such as Ofo and Mobike have attracted increasingly large amounts of venture capital. Ofo raised more than US$700 million in its latest round, the company said yesterday, after rival Mobike raked in US$600 million in June.

Ofo “warmly welcomed” the guidelines, and pledged to cooperate.

A Shanghai consumer affairs official said last month that there were more than 2,600 complaints about shared bikes in the city in the first four months of 2017, nine times more than the same period of last year.

A Shanghai Bicycle Association survey showed that about 500,000 bikes are sufficient to meet daily use, but the city is home to more than a million operated by 11 companies.

The guidelines encourage the use of electronic fences to ensure proper parking. That, and credit scoring, will encourage users to follow the rules and improve management efficiency, said Mobike official Xing Lin.


 

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