Chinese dockless bike-share giant launches US beachhead

WASHINGTON: Chinese bike-sharing giant Mobike on Wednesday launched in the US capital, bringing its "dockless" system which has swept China and is used in some 180 cities worldwide.

Washington is the first US city for Mobike, which has distributed some seven million "smart" bicycles in China and elsewhere and is competing with other rivals to disrupt the industry by eliminating the dock used in most sharing systems.

"We are thrilled to call Washington DC Mobike's first home in North America," said Hu Weiwei, co-founder and president of Mobike.

"Mobike is committed to developing a global bike share culture by collaborating closely with cities, and the US capital is key in achieving this. We look forward to working with more cities across the nation to make cycling the most convenient, affordable, and environmentally friendly transportation option for residents and tourists alike."

Mobike, which allows users to unlock the bicycle with a smartphone app and tracks the location of the bikes with GPS, is eyeing other US cities as well, according to its US general manager Rachel Song.

The dockless system has become a craze in China with more than 10 million bikes in use, but has also led to a cluttering of city centres with bikes that are vandalized, broken down or haphazardly parked.

Outside China, Mobike has launched in Thailand, Malaysia and a handful of British cities including London.

In Washington, Mobike will undercut the "docked" bike-sharing network by offering 30-minute rides for US$1 (RM4.19), or half the price of the competition.

The brightly coloured orange bikes feature a chainless shaft transmission and airless tires, aiming to be maintenance-free for up to four years.

More dockless bike systems are expected in the US capital this year from California-based startups Spin and LimeBike, also launching this month. — AFP