China’s dockless bike rental market is fairly young given that major players in the market like Mobike and ofo weren’t born until very recently. The sector has witnessed breakneck development over the past two years in China, but now the fast-evolving industry is reaching saturation at a speed faster than we expected, at least in first-tier and second-tier cities.

After talks with execs from 15 major bike rental companies in the city, Beijing transportation authorities announced today that no more new bikes should be placed in the city (in Chinese). This makes Beijing the 12th city on the lengthening list of cities to halt new bike placement. Given that the capital city has always played a special role in leading governmental regulations, this announcement may trigger more cities to follow suit.

Official data shows that the 15 bike rental startups that are operating in Beijing run a combined 2.35 million bikes in the capital.

Shanghai authorities issued a similar statement just two weeks ago. Other cities joining the initiative include Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Wuhan. This means that the dockless bike market in all of the first-tier and part of the second-tier cities are saturated, leaving limited growth potential for the bike rental startups there.

Against this backdrop, it seems that lower-tier cities and the global market are where the opportunity lies. Both Mobike and ofo are expanding aggressively in global markets across Europe, South East Asia, and North America. But when tapping totally different markets they do have some serious localization work to do in a bid to fend off fierce local competition.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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