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Missing piece in the new public bicycle service puzzle

By Lisa Carducci (China Daily)

10:04, August 30, 2012

The problem with China (I hear you say, "One of the problems ") is that progress and improvement develop their own way, independently and without a logical and systematic plan. Here is an example.

Earlier this year, Beijing municipality announced that it had started to install bicycles for public use, and that by 2015, 50,000 bicycles would be in service across 1,000 locations around the city. By June 16, nearly 2,000 bicycles had been stationed in 63 locations of Dongcheng and Chaoyang districts.

I saw three of these locations myself. In one place, the stand for 20 bikes was empty, meaning that all the bicycles had effectively been borrowed, unless it meant that the bikes had not been installed yet.

As the renting is operated by a machine, there are no employees around. At the three locations I visited, I stopped several passers-by and asked them how to rent a bicycle.

One answered: "If you put back the bicycle within an hour, you don't have to pay anything." But I need to know how to take it before putting it back. Another said: "You use your bus card," and his girlfriend added: "You must have over 300 yuan ($47) deposit on your card."

I checked the machine and never found where to put my card. Then I asked a man who acted as a kind of civil order or security guard at the street corner. He said I needed to "ban ka" or obtain a card by registration. But where to apply? He could not say.

I guessed some documents were required for registration, and asked three young women who seemed to be educated, and local residents. The first said: "You just have to show your ID card." "What about foreigners?" I asked. One said foreigners could not rent, while another said they could if they had a passport. I didn't ask any further as I saw they were answering what they thought it should be.

A Chinese friend of mine said "Beijing hukou (residence card)" was needed, and he thought the rule was discriminatory. I have seen a foreigner riding one of these red and white bicycles. Is it like in Xi'an, where cash deposit and the fee for using the bikes are higher for non-residents, while Guangzhou and Hangzhou have the same policies for both residents and tourists?

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