On Wednesday morning, lines of orange bikes appeared in several key downtown locations in Washington, DC. The new bikes belong to Mobike, China’s largest public bike-sharing operator. DC is the first American market to see a test-run of the Chinese dockless bike-share scheme.
Previously, the only choice for DC residents in need of a temporary bicycle was to find a Capital Bikeshare rack. Mobike, and its dockless system, could significantly impact the bike-sharing scene. The dockless bike-share scheme allows users to padlock the bicycles whenever and wherever they are done using them. The next user can easily find the GPS-enabled bikes using the company’s app on their phone.
The innovation on the traditional bike-share scheme can potentially improve the feasibility of public bikes for daily use, and at the same time release the government from having to provide the service. The dockless scheme has been booming in China since its launch in 2016: millions of Chinese people are enjoying the technology, while multiple bike-sharing operators, including Mobike, are fiercely competing for their business.
As The Diplomat reported earlier, Mobike, as one of China’s most successful bike-share operators, has expanded into the global market after successfully raising $600 million in financing in early 2017. Aiming to expand its service to 200 cities worldwide by the end of 2017, Mobike has already landed in Singapore and Manchester, UK. Washington is Mobike’s first appearance in the U.S. market.
“We are thrilled to call Washington D.C. Mobike’s first home in North America,” Hu Weiwei, CEO of Mobike, said in a statement. “Mobike is committed to developing a global bike share culture by collaborating closely with cities, and the U.S. capital is key in achieving this. We look forward to working with more cities across the nation to make cycling the most convenient, affordable, and environmentally friendly transportation option for residents and tourists alike.”
Other than the advantage of dockless parking, Mobike’s pricing policy is a distinctive feature: a 30-minute ride costs just $1, starting from the moment the bike is unlocked.
Since Mobike launched its service in Shanghai in April 2016, it has been operating more than 5 million bikes in 180 cities, and supporting over 20 million rides each day, according to the company’s statement.
The rapid global spread of dockless bike-sharing fits well into China’s “Go Out policy,” also known as the “Going Global strategy” which is a long-standing initiative to encourage Chinese business to make international investments. Chinese state media has repeatedly claimed that the Mobike scheme is one of China’s “four great new inventions” in modern times.