China’s bike-sharing bubble bursts and leaves giant graveyard of unwanted transportation


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/11/26/chinas-bike-sharing-bubble.html


#2

Looks like a business opportunity.


#3

And like the derelict cityscapes and empty malls, the throngs of poor chinese will never get to use those bikes. Those bikes will just rot in the sun.


#4

There’s share-bikes all over Seattle right now. I think you unlock them with an app on your phone. But I never see anyone actually riding them, the bikes are just randomly parked places. Which makes me think of Or All The Seas With Oysters. Anyone have a sudden influx of wire hangers?


#5

Watch downtown and near some of the colleges and you will see some being ridden. Problem is in the depths of winter with rain every day and such they aren’t going to get a lot of use.

But it does seem to be turning into a sport to see in what odd places they can be stashed.

At least this plan doesn’t seem to be costing taxpayers huge sums of money unlike the prior bike share plan. But then, this is a city that spends more per year to “help” the homeless than it would cost to rent apartments and move them all into them, but the homeless remain.


#6

I see them parked on the sidewalk for my walk around the mall and back. On a nicer day I saw someone pointing their phone at it to unlock it and have noticed one stuck in front of a residence but no way to tell if that one hadn’t been just picked up and moved 4 blocks by kids.


#7

2017:

2013:

http://www.businessinsider.com/heavy-smog-in-china-blocked-out-everything-but-a-giant-tv-screen-photo-2013-10

and also 2013–from space?!?!:

I wish I knew more about the root causes as to why the bike-sharing efforts in China really did end so badly. There’s such a strong bike culture in much of China, not just urban areas. In many places that are not highways, bikes can get you there faster and more directly. The barriers to using a bike would have been even lower (presumably) with a sharing platform. Can this epic fail be truly blamed on the politics of Tiananmen? ok ok and a bungling CEO?

I know I will be studying this tangled ball of illogic for a long time, forensically. Maybe I will go over to Freakonomics and ask if the hosts will untangle it for us. An inundation of cheap sharable bikes shouldn’t AFAICT have cratered the whole bike-sharing ecosystem.

Still hoping China gets a grip on its air quality situation…


#8

You can be sure that all that metal will not go to waste. Scrap metal in China never stays scrap for very long, especially if there is an economic incentive to recycle/reuse it. Spot market for aluminum alone is pretty respectable these days…


#9

Good idea. Perhaps Freakonomics could provide an insight into ‘excessive sharing’. Just seems so counterintuitive somehow.


#10

…And it’s spreading…


#11

Oh maaaaaaan, is this why we can’t have nice things?

Really puts the “dis[s]” in “disruptive innovation” that Sili Valley culture so adores.

The earliest portion of this century we’re in is going to be an absolute dang goldmine for anthropologists of the future. What are (or were) we thinking?


#12

Yep, demand for those bikes is gonna be sky-high after enough bike suppliers go bankrupt for lack of demand.


#13

Not just China …
https://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=61010
https://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=75987
https://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=55333


#14

So that’s where this silly gym fad started!


#15

An interesting narrative, but I’m having trouble gauging the big picture. The aerial footage shows <~4000 bikes in storage, which should come to <$100k on the wholesale market. That’s a drop in the bucket for an initiative like this.


#16

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution” - Clay Shirky

“It is difficult to get a man to solve a problem, when his salary depends upon it not being solved.” - Upton Sincliar, adapted by me.


#17

I’m thinking maybe the demand is actually hugely overestimated except for a few cases.

I mean, here in Holland most residents have a bike (multiple bikes) that they ride everywhere while the thriving bike rental business in Amsterdam is aimed at tourists. The rail company also has a bike rental service at the train stations - and while I’ve never used it, I do know people who do if they are visiting some place where it’s handier to ride and they don’t want to bring their bike on the train (which is kind of annoying.) But, just randomly strewing bikes around town (and not a tourist town) - wouldn’t people who are going to ride be better off just getting their own bike?


#18

From the standpoint of the bicycle manufacturer, and the political figures with whom he/she is affiliated, I’ll hazard a guess that it did not turn out badly at all.

Central planning + politically connected “entrepreneurship” = this sort of thing, pretty much always.


#19

Seattle is a tourist town but I still don’t get it as they are not fancy bikes and we have hills, like fuck it that thing goes fucking straight up/down hills that make you go I’ll get off and walk with a geared bike much less the things offered for bike share.


#20

Is it really though? The “invisible hand” is not the magic wand some make it out to be. In an atmosphere of corruption, speculative investment, and disregard for market research, why would bubbles like this not be considered an EXPECTED result?