China’s booming app-based bicycle- sharing industry has suffered a setback as one of the firms shut down its business after 90 percent of its bikes were stolen, a media report said today. ‘Wukong Bicycle’ in Chongqing is the first bike-sharing operator to close down in China even as the bicycle-sharing industry is witnessing the boom in the country. Bike sharing firms, mostly start-ups, some of whom are backed by big companies raked up millions of dollars in recent months dumping thousands of cycles in almost all top Chinese cities for bike enthusiasts. Wukong’s founder Lei Houyi said 90 percent of the firm’s bikes went missing because it had failed to install GPS devices in the cycles, Hong-Kong based ‘South China Morning Post’ quoted local reports as saying.
Lei also said that his firm failed because the cycles were not made by a top quality bicycle supplier. Mobike and Ofo had agreements with good manufacturers, but Wukong relied on small factories producing poor quality bikes, said Lei. Another reason for Wukong’s closure was that Chongqing is built on hills, which is not conducive to cycling, Wu Dong, a professor at the school of management at Zhejiang University, was quoted as saying Caixin news outlet. Two of the biggest players in the market, Mobike and Ofo, launched their first batches of shared bikes in Shanghai last year. There are now about two dozen similar firms operating bike-sharing schemes around the country. Wukong started to launch its service five months ago, putting 1,200 bikes across Chongqing.
About half the bikes were placed in universities and colleges. China’s Ministry of Transport has released draft rules requiring local governments to strengthen oversight of the sector. The service has reduced traffic congestion and cut auto emissions, but haphazardly parked bikes often block sidewalks, resulting in complaints. There were 18.9 million users of shared bicycles nationwide at the end of 2016, according to official statistics. The number is expected to hit 50 million by the end of this year, according to the China E-Commerce Research Centre.