China has more than 16 million bikes on the streets today that don’t belong to anyone and pass from rider to rider with the tap of a smartphone. With the new addition of new dockless models, many are simply left wherever the last rider got off. Mobike is among the leaders of the new dockless wave, with more than 1 million bikes available around the world, and though many cities are now looking for ways to curb the number of dockless bikes swarming their streets, Mobike CEO Davis Wang says the new technology is part of rethinking transport infrastructure for cities.
Mobike is the world’s first cashless and station-free bike sharing system. In 2017, they had “a couple thousand bikes” in nine cities in China, Wang tells WRI Ross Cities during Transforming Transportation 2018, where he spoke about achieving sustainable mobility in the digital economy. Only one year later, the company is in 200 cities, serving more than 30 million people a day.
After starting in China, Mobike now operates in the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands and the United States. The rapid expansion of Mobike and other similar systems hasn’t been without criticism, but companies are adjusting their business models and working with new regulations as they expand beyond China.
“We are transporting people in major world cities and trying to make more people use bicycles every day,” says Wang.
This was Wang’s second time attending Transforming Transportation, an annual conference co-hosted by WRI Ross Cities and the World Bank. “Zipcar changed the way people use cars; Uber changed the way people used taxis; Mobike is trying to change the way people use bikes,” he told attendees on January 11.
— WRI Ross Center (@WRIRossCities) January 11, 2018
What keeps him coming back to Washington? Collaboration, he says. “Collaboration is in the DNA for Mobike.” He emphasized the need for cooperation with the public sector to improve biking infrastructure and policy. There are more than 20 million people living in Beijing today, Wang notes. The subway moves 10 million people a day; the 50-year old bus system, 8 million; and taxis, 2 million. How does Mobike fit into the equation? They now serve 4 million people a day, he says.
With twice as many people using Mobike as taxis, it’s crucial for the city to accommodate and promote biking alongside other more established modes. Working side-by-side with local policymakers is important to ensure private companies like Mobike can be successful, Wang says.
Talia Rubnitz is Communications Assistant at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.