China's bike-sharing companies have found that success breeds its own set of challenges. As bike-sharing's popularity has skyrocketed
, Chinese cities have strained to deal with the sprawling masses of shared bicycles that surround many bus and subway stations at rush hours, blocking pedestrian
and vehicle traffic. Bike-sharing companies have hired workers to organize their bicycles. Several cities have instituted regulations to deal with the problem. Yet the situation has left some wondering if bike sharing can be regulated without killing the convenience.
Bike-sharing start-ups like Ofo and Beijing Mobike Technology Co have had to establish maintenance teams to deal with the mounting
problems of illegally parked and inconveniently placed bicycles that have accompanied China's bike-sharing boom.
The biggest bike-sharing platforms such as Mobike and Ofo have turned to technology to address the parking problem.
For example, Mobike in April 2017 set up hundreds of smart Mobike Preferred Locations in eight cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. These locations employ Internet of Things technology and built-in sensors that help the company precisely locate its bikes.
Ofo has joined forces with the satellite navigation company BDStar Navigation to improve its positioning technology.
However, these measures have yet to succeed at keeping cities' roads and sidewalks open to pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
On April 21, the Beijing municipal government issued guidelines for the bike-sharing industry that require companies to take "major responsibility" for their vehicles. The guidelines also encouraged district governments to carve out more parking space for bicycles.
However, the analysts pointed out that bike sharing wouldn't be nearly as convenient if every bicycle ended up in a designated parking area. If that were the case, some users might opt for other forms of transportation.
"The industry would lose much of its advantage," he said.
Local governments could alleviate the problem by assigning traffic police to supervise bicycle parking, but that would add to the cost, experts noted.