The bike rental sector in China is making a comeback after a steep decline as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak as city dwellers returning to work are opting for hiring bikes over other transportation.

Why it matters: The number of daily active users for short-distance transportation apps including ride-hailing and map navigation fell an average of 36% year on year during the Spring Festival holiday as a result of the epidemic after the state imposed lockdowns across much of China, according to data from Quest Mobile. Bike rentals have been rebounding since work resumed after the holiday.

  • Rental bikes were ranked (in Chinese) the safest means of public transportation during the epidemic by a popular health information app, Dingxiang Doctor. Bus, subway, ride-hailing, and bikes were ranked in descending order by infection risk, according to the report.

Details: The number of rides on Didi’s bike rental app Qingju surged beginning Feb. 10, the first day back to work after the holiday, compared with rides during the holiday, according to the company. In southern Guangdong province for example, the company’s bike rides on Monday were 30% higher than those on Feb 10. Rides in key areas, including bus stops, metro stations, and supermarkets were higher by around half.

  • Rides peaked on Feb. 10 for Hello Global, which surged 63% to 104% day on day in top-tier cities Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.
  • On Feb. 17, China Urban Public Transport Association announced it is drafting a new hygiene standard for bike rental industry. Co-authored by some of the industry’s largest companies including Meituan—formerly Mobike, Hello Global, and Didi’s Qingju, the industry guideline is expected to be released by the end of March.
  • The sector’s biggest players are teaming up on bike disinfection efforts. Operations and maintenance teams for different companies will sanitize bikes belonging to all companies across more than 100 cities nationwide.
  • Meituan Bike launched on Feb. 14 a new “contactless biking” initiative, urging riders to don protective gear and bring disinfectant to sanitize bikes for “safe and healthy.”
  • The surge in rides is noteworthy particularly in winter, usually a low season for the bike rental industry which is highly influenced by weather.

Context: Like its tech peers, Chinese bike-rental firms are contributing to the fight against the virus by donating relief supplies, offering free rides to users, and opening up hiring.

  • Chinese bike-rental firms began hiking fees late last year to bolster profitability following a prolonged period of major losses and severe cash flow constraints in the industry.
  • Hello Global claims it is the largest two-wheel transportation app in China with more than 300 million registered users, according its 2019 annual report released in early January.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.

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