Chinese bike-sharing dwarfs US and European programs
The bike-sharing system in the southern Chinese city of Hangzhou makes even the most developed systems in the US and Europe look like small potatoes by comparison. The 51,500-bike system, in a city of almost 7 million people, averages 240,000 trips every day — and reaches peaks of 320,000 trips in a day.
A few quick lessons can be gleaned from this impressive program:
- Use appropriate pricing incentives. In Hangzhou the first hour is free, the second hour is 1RMB (only 15 cents!), the third hour is 2RMB (30 cents), and each hour after that is 3RMB (45 cents).
- Solve the "last mile" issue. Hangzhou has integrated its bus, water taxi, and parking systems with the bike sharing program. To encourage multi-modal use, bus passengers receive the first 90 minutes free in addition to the pricing incentives above.
- Keep pick up and drop off stations close. In Hangzhou, stations are 200-300 meters apart in the city and 500-800 meters apart in the suburbs. This makes the system as convenient as possible and often makes the "last mile" less than a mile.
- Cater to all types of users. Many public bikes in Hangzhou include child seats and storage baskets, making them attractive to families, commuters, and tourists.
- Create a positive perception. Residents perceive the public bikes as “speedy and convenient,” and the program has the highest satisfaction rate of all development projects in the city.
The Hangzhou Bicycle Company plans to expand the bike-share system to 175,000 bikes by 2020. American and European cities had better get their bike-sharing programs in high gear if they are going to keep up.