In its first major statement since being acquired by Meituan, bike rental giant Mobike is to stop adding new bikes to cities considered to be already saturated with bikes, will share its big data with the government for improved city planning, and put RMB100 million into improving its user credit system, the company announced at a press conference held in Beijing on Earth Day, April 22. The company is changing its focus from rapid to responsible growth.

Despite being awarded a Champions of the Earth award by the UN in Nairobi last December for its advancement of low carbon transport, Mobike acknowledges that its rapid growth has not been without issue, creating some particularly visible “side effects.” Speaking at the event, Mobike’s founder and president Hu Weiwei said the company recognizes the problems caused by their bikes being parked in the wrong places or simply being abandoned by users. The bikes get in people’s way, lead to traffic congestion and even spoil how cities look.

New bike freeze

No new bikes will be added to cities which are considered to already have enough bikes. No list of cities has been provided yet. Bikes will be replaced and upgraded, but no additional ones will be left on the streets of these cities.

Local governments had already imposed bans on hire bike companies adding more bikes to the streets. Back in August 2017 Shanghai banned any more hire bikes (and by November 2017 ofo was reported to be deliberately making new bikes look dirty and old to sneak them onto the streets).

Big data share

The data generated by Mobike’s operations will be shared with the government on the proviso that user data is secure. Mobike generates over 30 TB of data globally per day from its 8 million bikes. The data share is intended to help the government ensure safer cycling by planning better cycle lanes and parking areas.

Many major roads already have separate cycle lanes, though cars also use them and park in them. Mobike’s data is also used for predicting demand which helps them relocate bicycles in advance.

We know from previous data releases just how detailed Mobike’s data can be. Its Magic Cube AI system can track how users cycle differently on different days and even who they’re cycling with.

Updated user credit scheme

The third measure is to tighten their credit system with an RMB 100 million overhaul. The system is intended to reward good users and penalize those who misuse the bikes by leaving the bikes in off-limits areas such as inside buildings. Mobike recently brought in new changes to its user credit system which would hike rental rates to RMB 100 for half an hour for persistent offenders and dock points for “riding bikes in an unsafe manner and ignoring traffic rules”. Details of the changes are yet to emerge but will focus on safer cycling and better parking.

After the announcement, co-founder Hu Wei put out her own more heartfelt message on her LinkedIn profile:

“I was ecstatic to see how popular we had become; but noticed that for some in the public, our brand did not represent the sense of environmental and social responsibility that we hoped it would. I was proud of our growing team and company culture, but at times felt we did not practice what we preached. As our expansion intensified and our priorities multiplied, it was not always easy to distinguish the most import ones from those that were simply ‘urgent’.”

The changes to the credit system could be global, hinted Hu: “We must also continue to engage local communities and institutions, both in China and abroad, to create meaningful systems which reward responsible ridership while disincentivizing negative behavior.”

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Frank Hersey

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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