The Haunting, Frustrating Chinese Bikeshare Graveyards

Stories about the failures of Chinese dockless bikeshare companies have been popping up on a regular basis since the autumn of 2017.

Here’s one from The Guardian.

Here’s one from The NY Times.

There are plenty of others.

Here’s one in The Atlantic with beautiful, colorful, incredibly composed images. It’s really worth taking a look.

The number of bikes are staggering.  In Shanghai alone, there are said to be over 1.5 million shared bikes. New York City’s Citibike bikeshare program has 12,000 bikes.

The failures are staggering as well.  Just one of the companies that folded supposedly has over 10,000 bikes now in heaps.  Unlike Citibike, these appear to be built lighter, like dockless bikeshare in some parts of the United States.

Reading the stories, I find myself wondering why these bikes aren’t being sold off by the container and moved to places where there’s a need for super-cheap bikes, like rural China or much of the developing world.  For reference, World Bicycle Relief has given away 337,000 bikes between 2005 and 2016.

But that is sort of the problem with the reporting.  Most of it seems like very basic level cultural curiosity rather than find out what’s really going on.  Just covering acreage with that many bikes–could be 50-60,000 has to cost something and that nothing is going on seems odd.  As the floating trash island stories in the Pacific have proven to be overblown, I’m wondering if that’s the case here as well. And that the stories are driven by the imagery more than anything else. Or perhaps it’s driven by a pushback to the idea of shared bikes.

I’m still drawn to the images for their color and composition.  I think there’s more to the story.  And hope there’s a second life for those rides.

 




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