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Shared Bikes: The Pros and Cons

2017-11-16

Shared Bikes: The Pros and Cons

By Xiang Anbo, DRC

2017-8-15

Bike sharing is an original Chinese innovation mode in the mobile Internet era and represents the new economy with clear commercial and profit models. In face of the new economy, business forms and models, governments at various levels should not simply nip in the bud, shirk their responsibilities of management or even stay as bystanders or admirers, but need to flesh out relevant policies and the market performance. As bike-sharing boom is an emerging industry, different opinions have cropped up towards its swift development.

Is bike sharing an illegal business as some of the shared bikes have occupied road space? Although it is quite hard to answer the question for bike-renting companies and their supporters, on our part we disagree with the view that shared bikes have occupied the side roads and the view that people ride them in cities and bring profits to the bike-renting companies. In light of the laws, bike sharing is related to different entities such as the bike renting companies and riders. As bikes possess double attribute in terms of private and public property and in light of the Chinese Commercial Law and the Civil Law, shared bikes are no different in nature from the private ones. In reality, enterprises would inevitably use some public resources during their operation, making the bike-renting companies no different from other businesses. Although bike sharing may be unpopular as some shared bikes do occupy some of the side roads, aren’t buses and taxis similar to the shared bikes in this regard? Therefore, even if the above-mentioned argument on bike sharing is reasonable, the key point of this issue is how people would make their options. In view of the purposes and effects of using shared bikes, the shared bikes are in line with the concepts of low carbon life style and environment protection advocated by the government. They are significant for improving the public transportation service system, playing a special role in alleviating the traffic jam in cities, meeting people’s desire for short-distance trips and giving preference to public transport. Therefore, the government needs to make the city planning and management adaptable to the trend of encouraging more commuters to use bikes and provide appropriate space and lanes for shared bikes parking instead of criticizing the parking of cycles on side roads.

Who should be responsible for the random parking of shared bikes on the roads, the riders or the bike renting companies? As one of the new four great inventions in China, bike sharing has gained a complete success due to the convenient services that allow users to pick up or drop off a bike almost anywhere whereas the services should not be misused for careless parking, which has led to severe criticism to shared bikes. In fact, the random parking of shared bikes is related to the users due to negligence of relevant rules, the operators and city governments. As the riders are the entities who are responsible for observing relevant regulations, the government needs to enhance their awareness of following certain rules and regulations while the rental companies need to shoulder the responsibility for bike management and maintenance. It should be pointed out that the government has both the regulation power and legal responsibility to keep the random parking of shared bikes on track. The city managers should distinguish the responsibility between the riders and the bike-renting companies and solve the problems caused by the random parking of shared bikes through comprehensive measures including city planning, the improvement of citizens’ moral integrity as well as technical and economic means.

Are shared bikes capable of reducing idle resources? We argue that the nature of sharing economy is the separation of the proprietary and utilization rights. As utilization right is more emphasized rather than proprietary right, whether shared bikes belong to centralized or decentralized ownership is not the key point. We need to look at the issue with a view on the entire industrial chain and cycle to identify whether shared bikes can reduce idle resources. In view of the entire industrial chain, the bike-renting enterprises have witnessed surging orders while some enterprises’ orders have rapidly reduced. Therefore, we need to take a big picture on the issue whether shared bikes have aggravated or alleviated idle resources. Viewing from the entire product lifecycle, the development of shared bikes will make the consumers to choose either to purchase bikes or to use shared ones as time goes by and the stored bikes become discarded, and the effects of the shared bikes on reducing idle resources will gradually phase in. Motivated by profits, the market mechanism will encourage more commuters to use bikes and reduce idle resources.

Some measures are proposed to regulate the development of bike sharing. First, the government needs to take precautions and make relevant laws and regulations to deal with the potential problems relating to shared bikes. Second, the government needs to provide more public products. Third, the government needs to flesh out economic policies adaptable to innovative development.