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Public bike rental wheels into Beijing

(China Daily)

09:50, June 21, 2012

A parking lot for public bikes near the Jianguomen subway station in Beijing. Deng Jia / for China Daily

The first batch of bikes provided by the government for public use in Beijing have proved popular with residents and are expected to boost the use of public transport in the city.

"More than 200 residents called to inquire and 130 registered to use these bikes in Chaoyang district alone yesterday," Mu Liang, a manager at GlobalNet Communication Technology Beijing, one of the two operators of the bike rental service, said on Tuesday.

A total of 2,000 bikes have been stationed in 63 places with high traffic flow in Beijing's Dongcheng and Chaoyang districts since Saturday, aiming to provide a green and low-carbon transport service to its residents, said the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport in a news release on its website.

Residents can rent a bike in one place and return it to any of the other 63 designated places.

The public bike service will be extended to all districts in Beijing, and 50,000 bikes will be in use in 1,000 designated service places by 2015 to cover major towns, transportation hubs and streets, the news release said.

Residents can use the bikes free for the first hour, and pay 1 yuan (16 US cents) for every hour afterward. Maximum expense for a day's use is 10 yuan, and a user can rent the bike for three days at most each time.

Designated places will accept applications for registration with an ID card, a transport card for taking the bus or subway and a 200-yuan deposit.

The card can be used to rent a bike and pay the fee automatically.

"During the initial period the registration system can only recognize the second-generation ID cards held by Beijing's permanent residents," said the Information Office of Beijing government on Sina Weibo on Monday.

"The registration system will be open to all people in Beijing soon," it said.

"I can't wait to use these bikes," said Beijing resident Liu Yong, as he waited outside a booth near Chaoyangmen subway station to get registered. "This means I don't have to drive my car to a nearby place and worry about traffic."

Liu said he almost stopped driving a car to work due to traffic congestion, but taking a subway is not easy either as his home is a 20-minute walk from the nearest station.

"I hope there is a bike parking lot near my community so I can ride one to the subway station and then take the subway to work every day."

Bike rental service operated by private businesses has been running in Beijing for a few years, but it has not been put into widespread use due to problems that included meager profit and heavy expenses.

"This time the Beijing government is behind the project," said Mu. "The free use within the first hour and low fee afterward shows it is a nonprofit project. The initial investment and operational costs are borne by the government."

Similar bike services by local governments have been provided in other cities, including Shanghai and Hangzhou, where more than 50,000 bikes are for rent.

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