[10] Shanghai, Drowning in Bikes

Since Shanghai is a planned city, it should not be surprising that cyclists and pedestrians own their part of the street, while in Beijing they were forced into a ‘fight or flight’ position.

The Big City Disease as described by Chinese authorities, appoints to congestion as one of the main symptoms. The city of Shanghai, as being a planned city, already implemented various ways to offer a variety of transportation modes, other than cars.

shanghai - traffic scooters

The city houses the longest underground metro network, covering 587 km (365 miles), and transporting about 70 million travellers a year; which should be expended up to 1,7000 km by 2030. Additionally, trolley busses provide above ground electrified public transportation as well.

Nevertheless, the car is still omnipresent, with the amount of trips increasing, but not at the same speed as the amount of roads, resulting in even more congestion. Additional traffic restrictions have to discourage the use of personal cars, completed with shared transportation modes, such as bike sharing.

Bike Sharing

The first public bicycles showed up on the streets of Shanghai in 2009, as a free service of the government. The break-through came last year, by Chinese bike sharing companies such as Mobike and Ofo, letting the bikes actually take over the streets of Chinese’ and of the world’s cities.

shanghai - bike sharing 2

At the moment of writing, various cities in the United States are doubting the dockless bike sharing initiatives that overtake the sidewalks, by being parked reckless and disordered. A lot of them actually are provided by these Chinese companies.

I’ve never seen as much shared bikes in one street – and street after street – than in Shanghai. In Rio de Janeiro [which I’ll tell you later on], many bike sharing stations where even empty, because they could not hold up with the high demand. Here, in Shanghai, the streets are overwhelmed, for the good and the bad.

Unsustainable Sustainable

Bike sharing offers a sustainable and democratic mode of transportation, which is especially for the short distances travelled in cities very convenient. On the other hand, when they are provided abundantly, and spread around the city, they might undermine their own advantages.

beijing - bike 3

Left behind at inappropriate locations, some are even spotted in street lights, they hinder other pedestrians and cyclists, and reach their end-of-lifetime before they should. Further on, due to their oversupply, many of them are not even used, literally piling up with hundreds waiting to return to dust again. This demonstrates when a sustainability solutions becomes unsustainable.

Many European and American cities are struggling with the same problems regarding bike sharing – although not at the same scale. To keep the initiative sustainable, many cities are creating rules to get the bikes back in the line. Nevertheless, eventually some cities even banned the service all together, throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Shanghai’s framework

Since Shanghai claims to be the world’s largest bike-sharing city – with about 1.7 million bikes at the end of September 2017, the city created one of China’s first city-level bike-sharing regulatory guidelines; followed by China’s country-wide framework for regulating dockless bike-sharing.

Nowadays about 30 Chinese cities have similar regulations, covering issues from maintenance to parking of the shared bikes. As a result, big bike sharing companies Ofo and Mobike removed their poor maintained bikes of the streets, and relocate bikes during peak hour, adjusting supply to demand.

Eventually, the amount of shared bikes in Shanghai drop from 1.7 to 1.1 million bikes. Or, how just throwing out the bath water can be sufficient.

On the other hand, I won’t see as much bikes in Vietnam anymore, but that is for next post.

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