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Speaker: Shenzen's hire-bike explosion

25 Responses

  • Allan MacLachlan,

    There is Nextbike in Auckland - those schemes in Shenzen seem a bit techier.

    I'm curious as to how Nextbike works with the helmet laws in NZ - is there a helmet with the bike, or do riders just use their own, or just ride without a helmet?

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    TBH, I think sprawl is less our issue than hills. But electric drive trains as a solution change the dynamic massively, since the bikes need to find their way to charging stations periodically.

    One part I don't understand about this model, btw, is how the bikes get distributed to where they are wanted. If everyone wants to go everywhere all the time then I guess it works itself out. But I'd be much keener on hiring a bike on K-Rd and leaving it locked up at Downtown than the other way around. Wouldn't the bikes find themselves at the bottom of valleys all the time?

    Presumably you can build it into the points system? Gain points by leaving the bike at higher elevation than you found it. Gain points by bringing it from some remote location to a busy one?

    Further presumably, they actually have to pay people on a daily basis to redistribute the bikes to where they are most wanted. A big trailer going around during the night and returning all the bikes to hills and ridges, and collecting them from remote locations and valleys where they've just been left.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    well the bikes seem to be around work places during the day and where people live at night - that line up in the pic above was gone after work hours .... I think Mobike do move bikes around at night - the tangle at HQB market seems to go every day.

    BTW a quick note about money 1 RMB == 1 yuan == 1 kwai - the distinction between the words is roughly RMB (Remimbi) is the name of the currency (like "sterling"), yuan is more like the name of the unit (like "dollar"), and kwai is what people use (like "bucks")

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2496 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Oh and I had intended to add a few more quick notes about all the bikes:

    - no helmets
    - no lights
    - bells (everyone rides on the footpath, ringing as they come up behind you)
    - no "men's" bikes
    - no gears
    - the seats are adjustable if you have a wrench, westerners complain they're too small

    There is one sort of bike that is rented from a kiosk. That limits where you can bike to and from, it doesn't seem very popular.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2496 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    A little bit unrelated, I found this artical about "Made in China!!!" It's a useful explanation of things like how tools such as the crescent spanner can turn to crap, not becouse they started to be made in China instead of the United States.

    It's surprising hard to find none Trump styled emotional ranting about Chinese manufacturing. Maybe it's a google algorithm.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3627 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    BTW a quick note about money 1 RMB == 1 yuan == 1 kwai – the distinction between the words is roughly RMB (Remimbi) is the name of the currency (like “sterling”), yuan is more like the name of the unit (like “dollar”), and kwai is what people use (like “bucks”)

    Ooh, thank you, I had wondered.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 21721 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Oh and I had intended to add a few more quick notes about all the bikes:

    - no helmets

    I wonder to what extent helmet laws make hire bike schemes more difficult where they apply.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 21721 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to steven crawford,

    The addition of gimmick features are often a good indicator of a quality drop

    See also stickers (Intel Inside! NXP Inside! Thingawammy XP2900!) on generic Windows laptops - Apple go to the opposite extent by removing features that are actually useful, but it keeps the product elegant.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5400 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    how the bikes get distributed to where they are wanted

    In Paris there are men with vans who spend their days lugging piles of bikes around. Environmentally those exact trips are not as good as a bus, but it's better than taxis and much better for the passengers. The scheme as a whole is a big win in a huge number of ways, even with the truckloads of bikes being driven around.

    The helmet obsession has largely ruined the bike hire schemes in Melbourne and Brisbane, they linger on but are not especially popular purely because of the helmet thing. Even though enforcement is rare (unlike NSW), it's still more of a risk than most people are willing to take.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 887 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Moz,

    Environmentally those exact trips are not as good as a bus, but it's better than taxis and much better for the passengers

    For sure. I'm more interested in whether it's a viable business model in Auckland, if for some percentage (call it x) of the extraordinarily cheap bike trips, there's also effectively a bus trip rounding up the bike. Hence my point about Auckland's geography - if it were flat then the bikes would distribute around where people wanted to go and x would be small. In Auckland you have to also factor in whether people are prepared to expend a lot of physical energy getting there. Also, having expended that, whether they might not prefer to then use all that potential energy back up again with a zero effort ride back down the hill. This is particularly compelling when our bus/train/ferry nexus is at the bottom of town. In Auckland, x could approach 100%.

    Put it this way, If I were a tourist using these bikes in Auckland, I would hire the bike on K-Rd and meander downhill exploring. Once at the bottom of the hill, if for some reason I actually had to get back to higher altitude, at that point it would be much less effort to walk it, and catching a bus would be compelling if I could not be bothered.

    If I hired it at the bottom of town, it would most likely only be to go along the waterfront. Considering that westerly is the predominant wind, this makes for a pleasant ride along Tamaki Drive as far as you want to go, then turning around and realizing that you're going to fight a headwind all the way back to the city, along what is a well used bus route. I can see a lot of these bikes strewn variously along Tamaki Drive.

    Presumably a serious business would have to price accordingly. A single bike left at St Heliers requires a 10-20 km trip in a van to redistribute it somewhere more useful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Obvious solution:

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5400 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Classic. I love how it doesn't even appear to have an electric drive train. It's the magic solution to traffic, rather like how Uber has solved the commuter problem using cars, because Ubers turn up by digital magic.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    So apparently, and this is a true Burning Man rumour, Eric Schmidt donated 1000 yellow bikes for people to ride around at Burning Man (a big party thing in Nevada).

    The monetisation was that each bike contained not only a GPS in the saddle, but also a micro-DNA tester that identified each rider and allowed their usage to be tracked. If they weren't wearing pants, that is.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5400 posts Report Reply

  • Glen Koorey, in reply to Allan MacLachlan,

    There is Nextbike in Auckland - those schemes in Shenzen seem a bit techier.

    I'm curious as to how Nextbike works with the helmet laws in NZ - is there a helmet with the bike, or do riders just use their own, or just ride without a helmet?

    Nextbike have been operating in Christchurch CBD for nearly two years now too - as a pilot called SparkBikes. Six stations with 30-odd bikes spread around them. $4 registration; free for first half-hour (or hour if you're a silver member) then $4/hr. System is easy; download the app; scan the QR code on the chosen bike, and receive the bike lock combo; report in the app when done with it. All the bikes have a helmet locked to them, which is regularly sanitised (BTW, it's hard for nits to be transferred via helmet). The usage has been fairly reasonable and now the trick is to work out how to continue the ongoing funding support (and hopefully expand the system) when Spark sponsorship ends in August - possibly by being considered part of the public transport network and subsidised accordingly.

    Helmet laws in Australasia don't help the usage rates in places where they have been introduced, but it's not necessarily a deal-breaker either.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Yes there are yellow bikes at Burning Man, most of them are (I think) bikes people have left in previous years painted yellow ... There aren't enough and some people seem to hoard them (lock them up or hide them) which does rather go against the whole yellow bike ethos.

    Of course Burning Man's culture abhors commerce in any form (except ice and coffee) so a bike rental scheme would never fly, and the alkaline playa is so tough on things you don't take a good bike there anyway.

    (Oh and no GPS, no DNA tester of course)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2496 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Oh, and Norway has the whole bikes vs. hills issue solved

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2496 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    There is one sort of bike that is rented from a kiosk. That limits where you can bike to and from, it doesn’t seem very popular.

    I think the novelty wore off a bit. The bikes were managed by different organizations under district government departments, which is a huge limitation. For example while the Yantian kiosk rentals surpassed 10 million in October 2012 (ten months of operation), other districts including the CBD were still not on the map – those coastal districts are mainly geared at tourists and as such use fluctuated with the seasons.

    They were popular enough that you’d have to delay a trip to the market until some bikes were returned to the local kiosk, but the tech was occasionally faulty and even with the kiosks they still needed trucks for redistribution. Our main issue with the kiosks were those occasions when returning from the market with a bags of produce, spotting a limited number of berths and other riders heading for them and having to race to get our bikes in first rather than ride 200m down the road to the next drop off.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 1975 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Heh...love it. We should have those, whether they're viable or not, just on account of the kookiness.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to mark taslov,

    Actually in Futian, I've seen only one rental spot, and it's new too, a bunch of orange bike docks and a rental screen, I see very few people riding them, the utility of just grabbing a bike off the street or being able to search for where the nearest one is and "book" it is just too high I guess.

    Maybe you rent one of those to go somewhere and come back

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2496 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think that Wellington should install a bike lift up to Vic, that would make sense

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2496 posts Report Reply

  • Julian Melville, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    See also stickers (Intel Inside! NXP Inside! Thingawammy XP2900!) on generic Windows laptops

    I really liked that on my new Dell all the standards logos on the bottom are hidden behind a small magnetic door, it definitely adds a feeling of polish. I quite like the Intel Inside stickers though, I remove them instantly and apply them to inappropriate objects.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Perhaps the cable car could be retrofitted with bike racks

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 763 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    You can take them inside, if it isn't jammed with cruise ship tourists off to do the "look at a town with water next to it from quite high up" for the 19th time on their fun-packed holiday.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5400 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R,

    Guardian reckons that Shenzen's still got some work to do on public attitudes to bike hire...

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/17/chinese-discard-hundreds-of-cycles-for-hire-in-giant-pile

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 239 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    heh – the pile outside HQB wasn’t that big, but really has the same cause, people fed up with all the new bikes blocking the footpath.

    This week it’s probably made worth because people are starting to travel for Chinese New Year, bike use is probably dropping off quickly

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2496 posts Report Reply

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