Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Bicycling

Dockless Bike-Share Is Leading a Stunning Cycling Comeback in China

12:22 PM EST on January 30, 2018

Maybe bikes will save the planet after all.

According to a report from the Beijing Tsinghua Tongheng Innovation Institute, helpfully relayed from the original Chinese by Carlton Reid at BikeBiz, cycling rates have doubled in Chinese cities since the advent of dockless bike-share systems.

There are now about 16 million dockless bike-share bikes in circulation around China, with each used for an average of three trips per day, according to the British Medical Journal.

China already had a strong cultural tradition of bicycling for transportation. Until recently, cycling was the dominant urban transportation mode, and most people are old enough to remember streets full of bike traffic.

After losing ground to motor vehicles for several few years, bicycling in China is clawing back mode share thanks to the dockless bike-share boom. In Shenzhen, the bike-share fleet of 500,000 has replaced "nearly 10 percent of travel by private car," Reid reports.

Buoyed by billions of dollars in venture capital, the companies are blanketing urban territory with their product. While Chinese cities are still figuring out how to deal with the clutter of dockless bike-share and the immense "bicycle graveyards" that pile up, the ubiquity of the new bike-share technology is also one of its distinct advantages.

The bikes are useful because they're everywhere, with fleets that dwarf even the largest that American cities have to offer. They're also affordable, with each trip costing as little as 30 cents. It remains to be seen whether the business model of cheap bikes at low prices is sustainable in the long run, but for now it's clearly having a major effect on the urban transportation systems of the largest nation on Earth.

We're also still learning how well the dockless bike-share model translates to American cities, where car culture is much more deeply ingrained and bike infrastructure remains patchy and sparse.

Here, the city that's farthest along with dockless systems is Seattle, where the city permitted more than 9,000 of the bikes after its earlier attempt at a station-based system fizzled. Usage of the dockless bikes quickly eclipsed Seattle's old system, but the number of trips per bike per day has fallen recently, and remains well below the figure for New York's Citi Bike.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Parking or Parkland? Brooklyn Judges Could Lose their Perk

Columbus Park should live up to its name, not parking, one lawmaker said.

February 28, 2024

Divorce NY Style: The Council and DOT Have Moved to Splitsville

It's the battle of who could care less — and safety is losing.

February 28, 2024

Cyclist Killed After Being Doored Into Traffic on Unsafe Brooklyn Street in Already Violent Year

Broadway's danger is well known to DOT, which named it a Vision Zero Priority Corridor — yet the agency did nothing.

February 27, 2024

Tuesday’s Headlines: Once and Forever, Congestion Pricing is a Good Thing Edition

Entitled Manhattanites who oppose the central business district toll are the most misguided, it turns out. Plus other news.

February 27, 2024
See all posts