Eco-friendly, convenient, and low cost—meet Mobike, a Chinese bicycle-sharing app launched early last year. After a mere 299 CNY deposit and a quick identity verification process, users can rent a bike and cruise through the streets. Founded by Hu Weiwei, led by ex-Uber executive Wang Xiaofeng, and financially backed by Chinese tech company Tencent, the app has been quickly ramping up in popularity this past year. Fleets of these orange-rimmed bicycles with sleek silver frames can now be commonly spotted through the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and most recently Chengdu.
After completing a simple registration process, the app allows users to scan the QR code or enter a serial number through the app to unlock the smart lock of a bike. Mobikes are installed with a GPS system, which allows users to locate bikes in their vicinity by pulling up an in-app map and even reserving bikes for fifteen minutes. The innovative app also tracks a user’s journey, calculating distance traveled, length of ride, and calories expended. The bike only costs one CNY per 30 minutes to ride. A newer model, dubbed Mobike Lite, is even cheaper, set at a rate of 0.5 CNY for every half an hour.
Upon completing a ride, users are allowed to park the bike in nearly any public location along the street, as long as it’s within a legal moped and bicycle parking space. This feature sets itself apart from other competitors in the country and is even an improvement over other longstanding bike-sharing services, such as New York’s Citi Bike or Taipei’s YouBike, where riders are required to park and retrieve bikes from designated parking hubs, an inconvenience that can deter users.
Of course, with the widespread usage of the Mobike app, there are bound to be negligent riders who might be tempted to park in less-than-considerate locations. To combat this, Mobike has implemented a points system with penalties attached to discourage such behavior. Points are deducted when a user is caught parking inappropriately. Once a user’s points fall below a certain threshold, the cost of renting a bike drastically increases. For repeat offenders, their account could eventually be completely suspended. Points can be slowly accumulated through completing a ride, taking a photo of where a bike is parked to help the next rider locate it, and reporting parking violations.
Last month, Mobike debuted a brand new upgraded bike model in Beijing and Shanghai. The main changes to the newer bike is the addition of a storage basket on the front of the bike and an adjustable seat that allows riders to easily change the height of the bike saddle; the weight of the bikes have also decreased and an improved braking system has been installed, substantially improving the overall riding experience. By constantly improving, focusing on user experience, and being located in Chinese cities where gridlocked streets and sardine-like subway conditions are commonplace, Mobike is starting to establish itself as a clearly superior transportation alternative.