20 Oct
  • By Climaction


Either yellow, orange or blue, they have invaded the sidewalks of Chinese cities. Free-ride bikes, which did not exist a few months back, have brought the urban landscape upside down. As for paying for their tickets or ordering at the restaurant, Chinese use their smartphone to unlock the bike with a QR Code (the lock is sometime working thanks to small solar panel present in the basket). There is no proper subscription every ride is paid according to its duration with an average of 0.5 yuan per half hour (~0.07 €). A small and affordable amount, which makes the use of this soft and decarboned transport very accessible.

Forgotten since the late 70s due to its negative image of being “The poors’ transport”, the bike is definitely back in force in the Middle Kingdom. They are everywhere and come in all colors! In 2017, more than 30 million of the 53 million bicycles produced in China are destinated for the Chinese market itself. The number of users is exploding: they were 17 million at the end of 2016 and according to the previsions they will be more than 50 million by the end of this year!

To date, about thirty companies share this gigantic market. But two main players stand out : Ofo, the market leader already weighs 2 billion dollars and claims 800 million rentals for 50 million users. Mobike, its challenger, has lifted more than $ 550 million in less than a year and can count on powerful supporters such as the giant Tencent, subcontractor Foxconn or tour operator Ctrip.


(A staff member from the bike-sharing company Ofo gathers its shared bikes for use)

So how do these startups get paid and keep up with the service provided?

Actually, very little via the rental of bicycles itself. The interests of the tens of millions of deposits collected at the time of registration (39 euros at Mobike and 14 euros at Ofo) account for most of the income. But most of the value is undoubtedly in the many data (names, address, location and bank details) that startups collect on its customers.

The success of these self-service bicycles and the rapid development of electric mobility (we were also struck by the sale price of electric two-wheelers: less than 200 euros for entry-level scooters!) Is a Good news for both the climate and the health of Chinese city dwellers. Recall that air pollution is responsible for 1.1 million premature deaths every year in China. Shared bikes solve the problem of the last kilometer while offering an effective alternative to crowded public transport during peak hours. We love it !



CLIMACTION is a french non profit organisation whose purpose is to promote energy transition and circular economy. Two members of the organisation, Thibaut Aaron and Marine Dupont are going around the world for one year to conduct the project Energy Transition Tour. The project focuses on 3 main themes : access to energy, renewable energies, and energy efficiency. By visiting substainable initiatives, CLIMACTION wishes to inform & involve the population as well as promote transfers of ideas through positive portraits, articles and videos.