Thursday, 11 May 2017

Pedal Power

Getting caught in a traffic jam and being stuck on the road for hours is always a nightmare. Not to mention, a waste of our precious time. With the growing population, combined with the increasing number of cars on the road, many countries are encountering public transport issues, as well as heavy fuel consumption and air pollution.

Under the umbrella of “the sharing economy”, ride sharing and bus sharing have already taken off thanks to the flexibility, low cost and convenience on offer. Now, the bike sharing system has followed suite. Let’s take a look at how this thriving trend came to play a part in the game.

Low cost, convenient and environmentally friendly
A bicycle sharing system is a service which offers bicycles for shared use to individuals. Many bike sharing systems offer subscriptions that are either free for the first 30-45 minutes or at a very inexpensive deal (for example, 99c per 0.5 hour). This set-up encourages people to take advantage of a low cost flexible transport system with the added bonus of reducing vehicle emissions, congestion and fuel consumption.

Lots of people find it very convenient and easy to use, especially when they are routinely stuck in traffic jams or going home late with no public transport available. Bike sharing is a very low cost alternative that is the convenient choice for solving the consumer’s “last mile” problem.

Bike sharing company Ofo

Bike sharing goes worldwide
With all the benefits mentioned above, the bike sharing trend has exploded worldwide.

According to Bike-Sharing Blog, there were 2.3 million public-use bicycles globally in 2016, which is more than double compared to 2015.

China, Italy, USA, Germany, Spain, France, Switzerland, Greece, Austria and Japan are the top ten countries with the most bike sharing programs.

With the rapid growth of technologies, many bike sharing programs have introduced new systems, such as electric and dockless bikes to enhance the customer experience. In China, more and more user-friendly approaches can be seen spreading throughout multiple cities. Bikes can be paid using a smartphone and left anywhere, with GPS tracking enabling them to be located via a mobile app.

The world’s first bike sharing service was launched in June 2015 by a Beijing-based start-up called Ofo. The company now has around 2.5 million yellow-framed bikes in more than 50 cities throughout China. Its main rival, Mobike, which only started up a year ago, says it has “several million” of their orange-wheeled bikes spread across a similar area. Another competitor, Bluegogo, has half a million bikes in six Chinese cities, with plans to grow by a new city every two weeks, according to the Economist.

Vélib' is a large scale bicycle sharing company in Paris, France. Fun fact: the French words vélo (English: "bicycle") and liberté ("freedom") were combined to form the name Vélib'. Compared to the metro, it is time efficient, and has gained popularity among Parisians thanks to an easy subscription system, vast number of docking stations, and built-in LED lights for night-use.

Vélib’ automated pay station

In Melbourne, Australia, Blue Share bikes are becoming popular, with unlimited 30 minute rides between stations, and subscriptions starting from just $3 per day. Australia was actually the first country to make wearing bicycle helmets mandatory, so free helmets are provided as a courtesy with Blue Share bikes.

Marketing campaigns
There have been a number of intriguing and fun campaigns launched to attract more users by a number of bike sharing companies.

Bluegogo sent out Santa Claus on Christmas to give gifts to citizens and encouraged people to find the blue sharing bike on that day.

Mobike has found a way to collaborate with external companies by offering up advertising space on the front of their bikes.  You can see an ad for sunsreen products below, encouraging more people be sunsafe while using the bike service.

Although there are still some issues in the bicycle sharing industry, such as theft, vandalism and maintenance, the future looks optimistic. Co-founder of Baas Bikes, Robert McPherson said, “Bikes can be the best partner of the city. If you conduct it well, it will be a big revolution in public transport.”

However, the real question is, how will bike sharing services fare down under? Where, for many Australians, owning a car isn’t a luxury but a necessity. Could this be the answer to all our gridlock problems?

Bowie Chen
Current student from the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School.

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