Chasing Mirages

Beijing Public Bike Rentals – the nth time’s a charm?

by on Jul.16, 2012, under Posts

Through the years there have been several attempts to establish a public bike rental system in Beijing.  They’ve all been abject failures.  I haven’t investigated why they failed, nor did I ever use them.

When I was last in Beijing in May, I noticed that new docking stations for public bikes were popping up, and today I saw one that had some shiny new bikes docked.

The dock is controlled by this kiosk, where you scan your Beijing public transit card (the same one used for the subway and public buses) in the lower left corner.

Though it was a hot day and I had the option of taking the subway across town, I really wanted to try this out, and I knew that it would be faster to bike than to take the subway and have to walk the last mile, so I went for it…

…and tasted the sharp bitterness of rejection.  The screen said that I needed to activate my card for use with the bike rental system.  Unfazed, I headed to the subway station and asked the ticket boother to activate my card.  I shouldn’t have been surprised by her blank expression.

Finally, I looked online for an answer and the cruel truth kicked me in the teeth.  Only registered Beijing residents are allowed to use the system.  To prevent theft, this condition might be reasonable.  Less forgiveable, however, is the lack of information about where to activate one’s transit card.  Beijing, please get your act together.  No program, even perfectly designed, is going to succeed if you don’t tell people how to take advantage of it.  Activation information should be displayed prominently on the kiosks and online at a website whose address is displayed on the kiosks!

On the bright side, Beijing’s public bike system appears to be getting significant government support.  According to this government press release, the first deployment, completed in mid-June, consisted of 2,000 bikes and 63 docking stations.  The city plans to deploy 25,000 bikes across the city by the end of 2012 and a total of 50,000 by 2015.  In the final stage, there will be 1,000 docking stations, placed such that you will never need to walk more than 3 kilometers to reach one.

Pricing looks reasonable.  There is no cost for the first hour of use, 1 yuan (about 16 U.S. cents) per hour after that, up to a maximum of 10 yuan per day.

Good luck in this new endeavor, Beijing.   Time to get your citizens hyped about this wonderful public service!

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3 Comments for this entry

  • BeijingBikeShare

    To access Beijing Public Bikes, you need to bring your passport and a “Beijing Public Transport IC card” (with more than 30 RMB on the balance) to one of the following offices to activate the service on your card. The deposit for a bike is 400 RMB. The first hour is free, subsequent hours are 1 RMB/hour, maximum 10 hours/day.

    The five offices are located at :

    1. subway TianTan DongMen (east gate, Temple of Heaven) station (line 5), exit A2

    2. subway DongZhiMen (line 2), exit A

    3. subway ChaoYangMen (line 2),exit A

    4. BeiSanLi residential district, 100m to the north along XinDong rd. from intersection between XinDong rd. and GongTiBei rd.

    5. 250m to the east along NongZhanGuan north rd. from the intersection between NongZhanGuan north rd. and ChaoYang Park rd.

  • Mei

    haha~ Actually Hangzhou has a very good Public Bike program. People in Hangzhou use it a lot!~ Hope the program will be equally successful in Beijing~

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