Bike Share 2.0

Like a Pikachu hit by a Thunderstone, Chinese bike shares have evolved!!!

Fullscreen capture 5122017 122937 PM.bmp
Pikachu, meet Thunderstone

I remember the first week I arrived in Lanzhou, I was thrilled that the city had invested in a bike share program. All along major roads, near public buildings, and some parks were the ubiquitous grey bike racks that ate up half the width of the sidewalk. By tapping my transit card against a sensor, I could unlock the bike and ride around to meet friends for dinner or just explore the city at a leisurely pace.

Fullscreen capture 5122017 113214 AM.bmp
standard Lanzhou bike share, also seen in Amsterdam, NYC, DC, Paris, etc

The three MAJOR problems with the traditional bike racks were:

  1. Early mornings, when I needed to get to school (back when I lived off campus), the bike racks were empty!! Early commuters had snatched up all the bikes
  2. In the evenings when I got returned to my neighborhood, the bike rack was completely full. And I would have to ride around to find the nearest bike racks that were still empty (which sometimes took a very long time, to the point where riding a bike no longer saved time)
  3. If I met friends for a meal or drink at a restaurant on a smaller, less prominent street, the nearest bike rack might be ten or more minutes away, and I wouldn’t know where it was located anyway, so I would bike around in circles for some time.

The concept of a fixed pick-up and drop-off point drastically reduced the functionality of the Lanzhou Bike Share. But now, some GENIUS has taken the bike share to the next level!!!

Fullscreen capture 5122017 123203 PM.bmp
freestanding bike share!

With the latest bike share model, bikes no longer need to be picked up/ dropped off at a specific bike rack- the rack was entirely eliminated. A bike lock is built into each bike, and will latch around the back wheel of the bike; the lock can easily be opened by scanning the QR code with your phone, and a Bluetooth signal will pop the lock open. When you are finished with your ride, press the lock back into place- and you’re done!

Fullscreen capture 5122017 122301 PM.bmp
scan QR code and the lock will pop open.

This means the bike can be dropped off anywhere in the city- outside a café, on a bridge, on the side of a street market, next to a bench in a park, right outside my apartment building…  anywhere! There’s the occasional asshole that will throw the bike into a flowerbed, or leave it in the middle of a busy street, but generally people have been very good about placing the bikes in strategic locations that are easy to spot, but out of the way of pedestrian traffic.

There are several rival companies that produce these bikes, but the most prominent in Lanzhou is “酷奇单车”, the Cool Bike App. With a 300 RMB ($45USD) deposit – a wrecked bike could probably be traced back to the last user – you can get in on the latest bike share. The app also tracks the total distance biked, CO2 emissions saved, and total calories burned. It’s a win win win for the world!!!

Fullscreen capture 5122017 122444 PM.bmp
the mobile app tells you everything you need to know
Fullscreen capture 5122017 123852 PM.bmp.jpg
in case you can’t find a bike, the App will locate one for you

It’s also opened up so many new bike paths for me, especially on the gorgeous, quiet riverside parks on the north of the city (which for whatever reason, never had bike racks installed in the first place). This has come in handy as the weather gets warmer and the skies get bluer- my quality of life has increased exponentially because of the new bike share!

Fullscreen capture 5122017 122327 PM.bmp
new parks to explore, thanks to the Cool Bike app!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s