China’s bike-sharing apps, the hottest new online services of the moment, are still seeing growth as they become an integral part of daily life, a new study out today shows.
The average ride time on the app-connected bikes has more than doubled in the past year, rising from 25 to 55 minutes, according to figures from 7Park Data.
Originally meant to solve the “last mile” problem familiar to many cities – like the schlep from the subway station to your office – the bicycles, available in nearly a hundred cities across China, may now also be popular for leisure rides at the weekend, contributing to the lengthier average ride time.
The two main services with their distinctive bicycles – Mobike’s sleek-looking silver and orange steeds and Ofo’s hipster, old-skool bikes in yellow – are being kept on their toes by “at least eight other Chinese bicycle sharing upstarts” that have completed a first round of fundraising, says the report. That’s keeping prices low, and even forcing some startups to offer subsidies – damaging the already slim chance of making a profit from a service that costs as little as US$0.15 per hour.
Both Ofo and Mobike have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from big-name investors including Tencent and Didi.
While the numbers from the report are far from perfect – they rely on an app analysis platform that watches how long users keep the bike-share apps open – they point towards the startups’ bikes being a new fixture in cities, like with Uber and Didi, and not just a passing app fad.
As Mobike and Ofo gain traction across China, the next challenge is to take their dockless bike-share idea to the rest of the world – which both have started to do this year.
“The dynamics which support the growth of bicycle sharing are unique in different markets,” says Brian Chaitoff, 7Park Data’s director of insights. “The success of expansion into other markets will be in part based on these factors: including population density – i.e. high capacity utilization and high availability – economic factors, conducive environments for safe biking – i.e. physical layouts, base rates of crime, etc. – and state/government regulations that do not hinder growth.”