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Rental Bikes - A Help or Hazard?

“There are nine million bicycles in Beijing….”

    Familiar lyrics, perhaps not so much a familiar reality over the past couple of years here in China with cars reigning the transportation market. But with the recent development of these rental bikes around the city, it’s seeming truer by the day!

    The introduction of the Mobike, Ofo, Bluegogo and a few more newcomers on the block, has seen the return of the once so called “Kingdom of Bicycles”. These new hi-tech bike rental companies, with the intention of bettering transport across congested cities and making a pretty penny as they do, have been littering the streets with new truckloads of rental bikes by the day.

    Bike transportation, while a healthier means of getting around, especially with rising obesity levels, and certainly being a plus for reducing fumes in heavily polluted cities, is seemly causing a bit of chaos as the number of rental bikes out on the streets increases.

What chaos could a simple rental bike cause, you might ask?

    Firstly, rental bikes pose an issue for maintaining proper etiquette while in use, especially when they can be left anywhere! From recent news reports, this issue of proper conduct with rental bikes has been making headlines with bikes being vandalized and then thrown into large piles, some 3meters high, within housing estates and on streets. Then there is parking and placement issues, with bikes literally being left anywhere and everywhere, especially in the most unlikely places and in the most inconvenient of ways. They’ve become a nuisance for most areas taking up valuable parking spaces and creating hazards for those trying to get around them.

Three meter high pile up of rental bikes destroyed and left

    Secondly, there’s the road safety issue. Many users do not possess a bike of their own, or at least, do not venture out often by bike. Moseying on out into China’s traffic can be daunting even for the adept rider, new cyclists should be extra vigilant on the roads, not to mention, the youngsters out on these bikes. The age limit is set to over 12 years, but this is not being upheld, and seems a little low to begin with for unsupervised school children to head out in groups on these bikes.

Crowded sidewalks of full of rental bikes waiting to be used

Road Safety

The three golden principles of safe vehicle operation in China (according to vehicle license test questions) are: concentration, careful observation, and prior prevention. These will go a long way to keeping you safe. It’s also good to be aware of some differences when cycling in China.

  • Beware of pedestrians walking out in front of you without looking. Be prepared to stop if pedestrians look like they might walk in front of you. Jay walking is common practice.

  • Beware of vehicles turning. Cars and other vehicles generally do not give way to cyclists even if they have apparently got the right of way. Be prepared to stop and let cars, or anything else not keeping to traffic priority rules, go first.

  • Beware of vehicles (or other cyclists) coming towards you on the wrong side of the road. Be prepared to stop to avoid collision.

  • Note that cycle lanes usually operate an unofficial two-way system, with bikes opposing the general flow of traffic generally keeping to their right, hugging the curb.

Bike Safety

    The only form of safety attached to these new high-tech rental bikes are their bells, reflectors and expensive GPS system technology to stop you disappearing with one.


    If you are planning a day out with family or friends on these bikes, why not consider having your own bike safety gear with you.

  • Helmets

  • Bike lights that can be attached on your person

  • Suitable footwear and clothes

  • And for rainy days, a raincoat/rain-poncho,

    Avoid using umbrellas while cycling. Winds can take up making it very hard to control your umbrella, let alone your bike.

    For comfort and correct posture while cycling, choose a rental bike with an adjustable seat to avoid knee discomfort (possible injury) and ease while cycling.

    Biking and crossing the street in China can be just as safe as anywhere else in the world, as long as you remember some common-sense tips, keep aware of your surroundings and be safety conscious out and about.






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