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How cheap dockless rental bikes flood the world



  Bike Sharing Wheels in Shanghai

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Alex Borwick

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Bike sharing will revolutionize transportation around the world, as it has already done in Shanghai

Cycling in the cities may have been driven by the Dutch, but a new hi-tech way of renting bicycles offers cities around the world a revolution in pedaling power.

The key innovation is the dockless rental bike. Found and unlocked on a smartphone with a tap of a finger, they can be rented for an hour, a day or a week ̵

1; then they are locked up and left wherever the journey ends, rather than a special docking area.

Today these make up the majority of the 18 million self-propelled, public-use bicycles in 1,608 cities worldwide.

That's only two million more by the end of 2016, says Russell Meddin, author of an online World Map of Bicycle Sharing

Most of this growth took place in China, where two start-ups rich in rival giant corporations of the country are fighting for supremacy on the streets.

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Getty Images

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These are not crops, but rows of abandoned shared bicycles in China

Ofo is backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba, while Tencent Holdings – Asia's richest company – campaigns for Mobike.

Alex Borwick, who lives between Shanghai and Beijing, was an early Mobike user. She calls cycling sharing "much easier than riding your own bike because you do not have to wear a lock and be worried."

And she "definitely" used the service more to be without a dock a bike to go where you need to go, not into a dock.

In this duel, 1.5 million bicycles alone were thrown onto the streets of Shanghai, but the battle for market share left mountains of lost bicycles in fields near Shanghai and places like Xiamen in the southeast.

There were and are some bike mountains, but now there seems to be less, "says Jady Liu, a student at Beijing Normal University

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Media Signature Braking on China's Bike Mountain

In September, Chinese cities banned companies from buying new bicycles and since then the mountains have started to fade.

Mobike has spread to 100 cities, including Manchester in 2017 and Berlin in early this year.

"China is the only truly global [bike sharing schemes]"says Steve Pyer of Mobike, a veteran of the London" Boris Bike "cycle

Cheaper Infra structure

Aside from the convenience of being able to get everywhere, dockless bikes are massively cheaper to operate than these more popular dock-based systems.

A typical London bicycle dock with a capacity for 25 bikes costs about £ 100,000 to install and maintain, says Mr. Pyer.

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Mobike

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Dockless bikes are massively cheaper to run these familiar dock-based schemes

Shifting lock and pay technology from the dock to the bike allows you to use them very quickly.

GPS sensors help drivers search for available bikes in a smartphone app, and booking and unlocking is done by scanning a QR code with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification).

The on-board computer is powered by a battery that is charged by a dynamo, such as the cyclist's pedals.

The success of the bikes in China has aroused the interest of investors. Venture capital investment in dockless bike share companies around the world reached $ 2.6 billion (£ 1.9 billion) in 2017, compared to $ 290 million in 2016.

Karan Girotra, Professor at the Cornell University The new graduate program Cornell Tech says there is a rush to enter new markets first, with companies betting, "once you go in there, you will win customers and drive other competitors out of business."

Image copyright [19659003] Alex Borwick

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"You can put a bike where you need to go, not into a dock," says Alex Borwick

And while the largest traditional dock-based system in Hangzhou, East China, has 65,000 bicycles, the start-up Ofo runs 10 million, says Prof. Girotra.

With traditional dock-based systems – like those in London and Paris – "People loved it, but the cost was higher and the advertising revenue turned out to be lower," he says.

Economies of scale lower the cost per bike for Chinese companies to "well below 100" instead of "$ 315 to $ 5,000 for dock-based systems," he adds.

Machine Learning

Dockless cyclists do not always leave the bikes In the ideal places for other drivers to start their journey, system operators need to move them around.

In Oslo, a start-up machine learning – a sophisticated form of data analysis – has been used to provide the most efficient distribution of data Bicycles to predict.

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Urban Infrastructure Partner

Caption [19659005] Bicycle Sharer in Oslo

"We're trying to maximize the number of rides on each bike before we have to move it again," says Axel Bentsen, managing director of Urban Infrastructure Partner, who runs the bicycle sharing program in Oslo.

"It's very difficult to do this manually, and machine learning finds patterns and suggests changes we could not make ourselves."

Car-Sharing Interest

Car-sharing companies want to branch out into a bike-sharing package for short trips of passengers at the end of a journey.

In April, Uber bought the New York based start-up Jump Bikes, which cost nearly $ 200 million, according to Techcrunch

Meanwhile, Uber's rival in India, Ola, introduced a bicycle-sharing service called Ola Pedal late last year in front.

And the Singapore-based grave, another Uber rival, supported a dockless bike-sharing service called oBike last year

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Lucrative data [19659026] According to Prof. Girotra, data on our driving habits could also be quite lucrative. [19659007] "If you want to know where people are, they can turn off cell phones, but with a bike, you know exactly which store they are in," explains Steven Fleming, founder of the Australian and Dutch consultancy Cycle Space. 19659007] It may take a while for the rest of the world to catch up with Amsterdam, where 66% of all trips are made by bike.

But it's the unlikely combination of venture capital and Chinese Internet giants that could get us there faster than expected.

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