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Tough times in the bicycle rental business

By Zheng Jinran and Wang Xiaodong  (China Daily)

08:16, September 25, 2012

Chen Liang rides a bike carrying his bride, Wang Qian, during their eco-friendly wedding ceremony in Linyi, Shandong province, on Friday. Accompanied by nearly 60 bicycle riders, the newlyweds pedaled through city streets in honor of World Car Free Day, which fell on Saturday. ZHU WUTAO / FOR CHINA DAILY

Xiao Nangying squeezed off the bus after a long working day in Hangzhou. Too exhausted to walk 20 minutes home in the dark, she borrows a bike from a rental point nearby her stop and gives it back 10 minutes later.

"I can return it at a point in front of my community," said the 26-year-old woman. "There is no worry about it being stolen and it's very convenient."

Large-scale bike rental systems add an efficient option to the transport mix in major Chinese cities, thanks to their fleets of quality bicycles accessible via smart cards and from roadside, self-service docking stations.

The number of rental bicycles in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, reached 65,000 in April, with more than 2,700 docking stations on street corners, every 300 meters, according to Hangzhou Public Transportation Group.

Last year, public bicycles were used more than 870 million times, of which 90 percent were by residents and migrant workers like Xiao.

"When my friends came to see me, we rented bicycles and went cycling around West Lake Park in Hangzhou," Xiao said.

Like Hangzhou, 60 other cities have adopted public bicycle rental systems. In Wuhan, Hubei province, more than 90,000 bikes are scattered across 1,318 docking stations.

Despite rising awareness of eco-friendly ways of living in cities, the development of public transport, especially bike rental, faces many difficulties.

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