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Beijing city releases its own bike-rental app to take on Mobike and ofo

Bike sharing was arguably the hottest area in China’s tech sector over 2016, with new companies and their backers rushing to stake their claim in the new market. Startups like Mobike and ofo launched their apps, and their corresponding bikes seemed to spontaneously appear out of nowhere, all over Beijing.

The city, which operates around 50,000 bikes, and has 21.7 million residents according to 2016 figures, caught up with the trend and launched its own bike rental app early this month. The new app offers cheaper bike rental choices than the existing bike sharing apps. However, it still requires users to take and return the bike to a nearby designated parking station. Bike sharing apps like Mobike and ofo allow users to park their bike anywhere after use.

The city’s new app showcases all parking stations on its map, and a user can check both the number of available bikes and the number of vacant racks at each parking station. Click on a nearby parking station, and you can make a reservation for 60 seconds – a duration which, for many people, is too short to be helpful.

In addition to traditional money deposits, a user can rent a bike via the new app with a local transportation card, or with the Zhima Credit of Alibaba’s Alipay, as long as the user’s credit rating is higher than 600. Rental fees are, as before, free for the first hour and 1 RMB per hour after that. Rental fees are capped at 10 RMB per day.

Mobike has 3 million monthly active users, while its rival ofo has 2 million registered users, across 21 cities. For bike rental fees on Mobike and ofo, here is a quick comparison: A user needs to spend 1 RMB per hour on ofo, or 1-2 RMB on Mobike, depending on the model of bike, for one hour of bike riding. Deposits on ofo and Mobike are RMB 99 and RMB 299 respectively.

Mobike and ofo led the bike sharing race with one round of financing after another, pushing forward at an unprecedented pace. In late January, Foxconn, Apple’s manufacturer, made a strategic investment in Mobike. Ofo is set to raise as much as 150 million in financing, aiming to achieve a valuation of around $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

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