China was known as “The Kingdom of Bicycles” in the 1970s due to its reliance on the form of transportation (Shaheen, Zhang, Martin, & Guzman, 2011). Today, bike sharing has become increasingly popular with users and investors in a period when environmental conservation, cultural, and health issues are a major source of concern (Zhang, Zhang, Duan, & Bryde, 2015). Cities that employ strong bike sharing plans ultimately discover that identifiable plans can have a positive and powerful impact on their residents and images. For example, in the city of Hangzhou, 53.8% of car owners opt for bike sharing in their daily commutes (Shaheen et al., 2011). The businesses model has attracted a battery of ride sharing companies from sprouting all over the country (Zhang et al., 2015). Globally, there are around 461 bike sharing programs that are spread out in 28 countries (Zhang et al., 2015). Today, bike sharing is a hot potato in the Asian nation, civilians stand to benefit from such programs regardless of whether they use them or not.
Excellent public transport is a challenging issue in China and policies have been instituted to develop transit-oriented urban spaces (Zhang et al., 2015). The proliferation of bike sharing companies in China is laudable; however, the firms should be subjected to stringent regulatory frameworks. By the year 2010, there were over 50,000 bicycle service points which could be found every 100 meters (Zhang et al., 2015). It is prudent to establish a set of rules and regulations to govern the way in which they operate. Bike sharing companies in China operate without docks, and emphasis should be placed on the proper parking of the bikes to ensure that they blend in with the human traffic on the pavements. The dock less system has revolutionized the bike sharing programs in the country as the bikes are much easier to access. Bikes can now be taken everywhere instead of using public buses, and users have felt benefits such as weight loss which has led to a healthier generation. Bike sharing is complementary to existing public transit systems, apart from being convenient and “green”, they are cheap and easy to maintain (Zhang et al., 2015).
Bike sharing has attracted walking and bus transit users with 30% of the population of Hangzhou opting for the mode of travel (Shaheen et al., 2011). Studies have suggested that the success of bike sharing operations is based on transforming them to nonprofit entities; however, counter arguments have recognized the need for monetary gains as a requisite for sustainable bike sharing systems (Zhang et al., 2015). Bike sharing companies have to overhaul their business models if they are to succeed in China. The existing companies and new entrants must embrace the use of secure bike docks which are easier to use, especially for storing the bikes. In doing so, the firms are expected to lower their operating costs and prevent unnecessary losses. Zhao et al. (2014) propose the use of universal credit cards which can cover a wide array of payment plans and trips, these cards can be used for regular payments and for other transport platforms. Zhang et al. (2015) suggest that the companies can create value for investors by exploring revenue avenues like advertising on the bikes.
Bike sharing schemes are beneficial for everyone; therefore, revamping the existing modes of urban cycling to adequately promote the philosophy of collective resources is a welcome idea. If well accepted by the public, bike sharing is an opportune investment for achieving sustainable transportation in urban centers. There is an inherent need for a better consumer marketing on bike sharing programs to improve their uptake in China. However, the operating environment should be properly regulated to ensure that the bicycle firms are subjected to a fair playing ground. The companies should also revamp their revenue models and seek alternative sources of revenue such as advertising because this can help in alleviating the operational costs. Moreover, the payment methods should be broader, for instance, integrating a single card that can even be used to purchase groceries is more convenient as compared to using physical cash to unlock the bicycles or having individual cards for every company. The use of adaptable payment methods is bound to encourage a wider use of the bicycles. The firms can also introduce membership and prepayment schemes for ardent users. Bicycle usage can be made as solid as the ground they are ridden by making it an attractive form of transportation. Proper sensitization is the backbone of such endeavors as this will make the public pursue this environmentally friendly alternative to public transport. Bike sharing can have a lot of benefits if the initial hurdles are overcome because they augur well with the cities’ drives to go green by reducing environmental pollution and having a healthy population. The regulation and guidance from the government portrays an encouraging and tolerant attitude, and it has the overall effect of directing the industry to prosperity.
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