While the sight of ageing uncles pedalling past a row of shophouses is still fairly common in certain Asian cities, gone are the days when bicycles were the transport of the masses. Today, gridlocked cars and puttering motorbikes on congested, fume-choked streets are the status quo. But modern traffic woes are forcing a rethink – one that’s putting the humble bicycle back on the roads.
Nowhere is this more evident than in China where, from Chengdu to Shenzhen, the bike is experiencing a renaissance. The driving force behind this revival are start-up companies like ofo, Mobike and Bluegogo, which have rolled out major bike-sharing schemes across the country. These app-based systems allow users to pick up and drop off their bikes anywhere they like, unlike traditional schemes that rely on designated parking stands.
So far the results have been impressive, despite the odd negative news piece about bicycles being impounded or left in unseemly heaps. For instance, ofo claims it already has ten million users for its one million bikes in 33 cities. And not surprisingly, these companies are now looking at cities beyond China.
Both Mobike and ofo recently unveiled bike-sharing schemes in Singapore, offering bicycles at MRT stations, public parks and in the central business district from as little as 50 cents a trip. Word has it that Bandung in Indonesia and Penang in Malaysia are next in line for similar schemes.
These initiatives suggest the bike is making a much-needed comeback. While less motorised traffic is good news for the local environment, it’s also a boon for visitors. Especially in cities with well-zoned cycling trails, a rental bike is a simple and affordable way to explore your next destination.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine.