• Bike-sharing in China

Bike-sharing in China (Photo : Getty Images)

China was once a haven for bicycles, but its ambition to become more car-centric made biking lose its cool factor among the Chinese. Recently, the world's second-largest economy is finding itself in love again with bicycles, thanks to bike-sharing through mobile apps.

Throughout the mid-1990s, China had as much as 43 bikes for every 100 people. But as cars became a ubiquitous symbol of progress among the Chinese through the 2000s, the Chinese government went as far as motorizing several of its cities, effectively driving down bicycle usage.

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Citylab reported that owning a bicycle was once considered as among the "four treasures" in China, with the country having as much as 523 million bicycle owners in the 1990s. But that number quickly declined as the Chinese government saw greater opportunity in car ownership.

As a result, several Chinese bikers abandoned their bicycles in favor of cars, as cities quickly dismantled their biking facilities to accommodate more cars. That, however, contributed greatly to China's environmental woes, leading many within the country to reconsider biking.

Bicycle ridership soon resurged in China, mainly with the convenience brought forth by bike-sharing startups such as Ofo and Mobike. Said advancements were introduced with a keen eye to restore cycling in China to its turn-of-the-century level of cool.

Nonetheless, bike-sharing has generated a peculiar set of problems, Yibada reported. Bike-sharing startups rely on large companies for supplying their bicycles, putting smaller players in the bicycle market at a greater disadvantage in the competition.

Furthermore, the growth of bike-sharing in China has yet to demonstrate positive consequences against the country's pollution problem. Urban planners are confronted with problems pertaining to the shortage of bicycle-friendly facilities, while authorities are beset with issues such as theft and discipline.

Bike-sharing, in that sense, emerges as more of a manifestation of China's growing fondness for mobile payments than a genuine desire to revert to biking as a favored transportation mode. Only time will tell whether such a trend can induce more Chinese to go for bicycles over cars.