Text by Qian Qian
Every morning, Deng Minhua, of western Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, swipes her card at a public bicycle rental station near her home. According to the leasing regulations, renting a bike for less than an hour is free. Therefore, it costs her nothing to get to work, and more importantly, she no longer worries about terrible traffic.
Today in Hangzhou, 2,051 rental stations offer 51,500 bicycles, each of which averages usage by about five riders a day. In downtown areas, such stations can be found every 300 meters, and 70 percent of them provide 24-hour services. Public bicycles have become a popular means of transportation for more and more citizens of Hangzhou.
A Free Hour
On May 1, 2008, Hangzhou established China’s first public bicycle leasing system as part of its public transit.
According to the rules, those between the ages of 16 and 70 with riding skills can rent a bicycle at any leasing station, where they pay with the local public transit IC card, or lay down a 300-yuan cash deposit along with their ID card. It is free for the first hour, 1 yuan for the second hour, 2 yuan for the third hour, and 3 yuan per hour thereafter.
Payment is simple: riders swipe their cards at a POS installed in a bicycle stand. After they are done riding, they can leave the bicycle at any station near their destination and scan the card again.
“This system is more convenient than similar ones in Europe,” declares Lu Zhihong, deputy general manager of the Hangzhou Public Transit Group. “Bicycle rental in France, for instance, works through the banking system and takes five minutes. However in Hangzhou, it takes less than a minute to rent a bicycle.”
The results of a recent joint survey conducted by Gallup Organization and Fudan University in Shanghai are astonishing. Hangzhou is far ahead of not only Shanghai and Beijing in urban convenience, but also 30 other big cities – and Hangzhou owes much of this success to public bicycles.