Last month outside every entrance to Huawei campus here in Shenzhen were rows and rows of brightly coloured bikes. These weren’t gifts and they weren’t abandoned. Instead, a new bike-sharing service placed them at strategic points for people to rent.
Many cities worldwide have bike-sharing programs. It’s common in New York or Amsterdam to see banks of bikes in municipal-maintained storage racks, with nearby credit card readers for payment. Need a bike? Rent a bike. Done with your bike? Return it to another storage rack.
Here in China it’s a little different – and easier. If you want to rent a bike, scan the QR code on the bike and connect on WeChat. You can agree to the rental terms and pay with a WeChat transfer. You then get the code for unlocking that specific bike. When you’re done, hit “return” on WeChat and the bike locks again. You don’t have to return it to a specific place. When you’re done it locks itself, and your charges end.
My colleague rode from one end of campus to another and was charged RMB.50 for a 20 minute ride (that’s US$0.07).
It’s another example of China’s gallivanting attitude to online payments and integrating new technologies into old services.
The bike fad was mentioned in a great article by David Dodwell in “The South China Morning Post” recently. He said, “China’s digital payments market is today 50 times larger than that in the US.” There’s a link to the article below.
Whether China is something to fear is mostly an issue for newspaper-salesmen. Instead, I’d say get over here and get on your bike!