In China, Bike-Sharing on a Big Scale

Hangzhou, China: 7 million people. 50,000 public bikes. 240,000 trips a day. The largest public cycling system on Earth.
Hangzhou Bike photo by Bernhard Scheid

Photo by Bernhard Scheid.

Hangzhou—a city of 7 million in southern China—has a bike-sharing system so successful it’s reinstating bicycles as emperors of the road. The program has grown to 50,000 bikes since it started in 2008, making it the largest public bike system in the world—far surpassing Paris, the second-largest with an impressive fleet of 20,000.

Hangzhou’s Public Transportation Corporation developed the system to reduce traffic congestion and help residents get to areas public buses don’t reach. On an average day, 240,000 bike trips are made on Hangzhou’s wide roads and segregated bicycle lanes. The bike scheme is free to users for the first hour, and each subsequent hour costs only a modest fee. It’s also convenient—bikes can be returned to any of 2,050 stations, and the stations are no more than 1,000 feet apart. The city plans to expand the system to 175,000 bikes by 2020.


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