The latest tech startup battle is being waged in China. The service? Bikes. Mobike and Ofo, each valued at about 1 billion, are the top bicycle-sharing startups racing to match China’s growing appetite for convenient, cheap and fast travel options. Electric bikes are also gaining traction. In fact, both markets are so saturated that the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau has seized improperly licensed rental e-bikes from several new companies who have illegally distributed them around the city.
It’s not surprising that this competition is fierce in China. As our global transportation survey shows, 14% of Chinese have used a bike renting service in the last year compared to the global average of 8%. The percent is even higher in Hong Kong at 21%. China also boasts the highest share of electric bike users (13% have used an e-bike in the past month compared to a global average of 2%). In China, more people have used an e-bike in the last month (13%) than a traditional bike (11%).
Part of the reason for this huge demand for bikes and e-bikes in China could be the growing complaints about the transportation and pollution in major cities like Beijing. Based on our global transportation survey, 37% of Chinese cite bad air quality as a problem with their transportation system and another 48% say wasting time in traffic is an issue. And, as Chinese citizens are becoming more vocal with their complaints about pollution and congestion, bike and e-bike use could be a way to mitigate these issues.
But bike sharing and electric bikes are far from a magic bullet to China’s traffic woes. Traffic congestion is also due to China’s large share of new drivers and poor driver education programs (which lead to an above average accident rate). Vehicles running on fossil fuels significantly contribute to smog, but less so compared to large factories which show few signs of slowing down production. The Beijing government has recently addressed parents’ concerns for their children’s health by requiring schools to install air purifiers, though the program has not yet been fully implemented.
To explore more transportation facts and figures, visit the interactive dashboard How the World Moves.