China releases first national guidelines for bike rental industry

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After several tragic deaths and countless headaches for municipal authorities caused by the bike rental boom, the first guidelines for regulating bike rental for the whole of China have officially been published (in Chinese). The “guiding opinions on encouraging and regulating the development of bicycle rental”  were signed by 20 state departments after the draft was submitted to the public for review by the Ministry of Transportation in May.

The guidelines aim to rein in the disorderly expansion of shared bikes by major companies such as ofo, Mobike, Bluegogo, and others. The most recent case in the media (in Chinese) was in Zhengzhou, Henan province, where the local police brought in representatives from Mobike, ofo and Coolqi to give them a lecture on how to manage their bikes. Apparently, the 390,000 bikes in the city caused chaos on the streets both for pedestrians and other vehicles. Bicycles were piled up in front of subway exits, bus stations, and other highly frequented areas, leading to safety hazards.

The new state-level guidelines aim to change this by setting out responsibilities for municipal governments and bike rental companies. Among other duties, the main responsibilities of the city will be improving the bicycle transportation network and traffic, securing more parking spots, setting up technical guidelines and encouraging the development of online bike-rental systems.

Securing parking for bikes will not only be left to the city. Bike rental operators will need to adopt measures to supervise and regulate user behavior and clean up illegal parking. Companies will need to secure that users register with a real name and set up standards for billing, complaints, and insurance. Children under 12 will not be allowed to use rented bikes.

The guidelines also address the issue of deposits which has previously caused concern among bike rentals users. Bike rental companies will now need to set up a special account for deposits which will be supervised by government bodies. The guidelines also encourage companies to waive deposit fees.