Asia: Bike-sharing takes off

Asia: Bike-sharing takes off

Millions of consumers in Beijing, Taipei, Singapore and cities across Asia are renting bikes and leaving their cars at home. They are renting bikes via phone apps to cover the last few kilometers of journeys, leaving cars and motorcycles at home and forgoing taxis.

The dramatic increase in cyclists has decreased demand for gasoline in China, and other countries in the region are expecting greater changes in energy consumption as the programs grow.

The two-year bike-share boom has put more than 16 million bikes in China alone, according to its Ministry of Transport. More than 100 million riders already are registered, which is expected to cause car use and gasoline demand growth to stagnate by 2025.

Analysts can’t keep up with bike numbers, let alone estimate how much gasoline consumption growth has dropped due to the rapid rise in bike-sharing. It is clear from industry estimates, government reports and a Reuters survey that bike services are resulting in fewer trips by motor vehicles.

“Bike-sharing has been crazy … The general belief is that [it] boosts the utilization of public transport as shared bikes help to complete the journey,” said Harry Liu, a consultant with IHS Markit.

Even before the number of bike-share units began growing, analysts had already been saying greater fuel efficiency in automobiles and the rising use of electric cars meant gasoline’s big growth story was over.

In January 2018, Chinese bike-sharing start-up Mobike introduced its services in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Bangkok, Thailand, as well as in Washington, D.C.

Mobike, which launched in April 2016, and China-owned rival Ofo have attracted combined funding of more than U.S. $2 billion from venture capital and private equity firms that include Temasek Holdings, Tencent Holdings, DST Global and Ant Financial.

Taiwan, where the government backs a bike-sharing program, is aiming to have bikes account for a 12 percent share in trips to work by 2020, up from about 5 percent now.

The Taipei city government is expanding bike-sharing program Youbike — which uses docking stations — to have a bike station within a 10-minute walk of every citizen.

Singapore-owned Obike and U.S.-based VBikes — both free-range systems — are also operating in Taiwan.

“Once bike-sharing pushes it really to the limit, to the extent to impact the way people think of mobility, then it could be disruptive,” Liu said.

Still, mismanagement of bike numbers and misuse of some bicycles may attract legislation that could curb their use. New shared bikes were recently banned in some areas in the Chinese cities of Wuhan, Shanghai and Guangzhou, because of bicycles being discarded in public spaces.  Reuters