Bike sharing in China a massive headache

Lime ebikes parked on a quiet residential street in Sunnyvale.


China goes all-in on fads, and bike sharing is no exception.

This year bike sharing has finally calmed down as millions, and I mean millions, of bikes are being removed from cluttered streets in major cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen. A regular YouTube vlogger commented on the phenomenon.

The boom-and-bust business cycle of exuberant free enterprise carried to its extreme is not unfamiliar to modern China. The government leaves businesses alone, which is one reason why they have so many scandals, like poisoned powdered milk.

China’s cities in the early 1980s were filled with bikes, but their numbers dwindled rapidly as the car took over. Today they have plenty of bikes, but riders stay off of the busy highways and vie for space on crowded side streets.

When things got out of hand on rental bikes, the government stepped in big-time. Now China has fields of rusting rental bikes, witnessed by compelling photos on The Atlantic website.

From what I’ve read, the electric bike and scooter business in China has not been so bad because the government put restrictions in place right away.

We’ve seen the electric scooter business take off in the Bay Area, as well as ebikes, although it’s nowhere near as bad as in China.

I ride by a cluster of ebikes parked in a residential area in Sunnyvale on Heron Avenue and it seems puzzling. There’s not much around here except single-family homes.

I’ve never rented an ebike or scooter, but I suppose they do have utility for a small number of commuters in certain circumstances.

Speaking of ride-share vehicles, I came across the autonomous Waymo car today while cycling and had an interesting encounter. More on that later.

(Update: Lime ebikes were removed from Heron Avenue in early January 2019.)

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