Bike rentals to curb pollution, ease jams
By Wu Yong
Updated: 2007-10-06 07:41

Zhang Qiang started a new career early this year - renting out bicycles at Beijing's Drum Tower.

"I am making a contribution to the green Olympic Games, as my work helps improve Beijing's traffic and air," said the 40-something Zhang.

It is not an exaggeration, as 20 of his bikes are rented daily by tourists from home and abroad. Half of his clients are Western tourists who "can easily accept this idea and enjoy cycling", he added.

Zhang's effort is part of an expanding bike rental network in Beijing. To embrace next year's Olympic Games, the local government and people are working on a range of measures to ease congestion and curb pollution in a city with three million motor vehicles and more than four million drivers.

Wang Yong, president of the Beijing Bike Rental Co, is working hard to encourage the concept. Wang started his business two years ago and his company now supplies 5,000 bikes at 32 outlets close to subway stations, commercial districts, Olympic venues, hotels and office buildings.

Late last month, he even persuaded the Beijing Hotel, which will serve as the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to approve a bike-rental station in its parking lot.

Sources close to the company said that outlet reflects the fact that "the local authority encourages the use of bike."

But the effort is not that easy.

"To rent rather than buy a bike is still a new idea for most Chinese and most of us are struggling to own our first car," Wang said.

But "for the good of our health, we should change our ideas and learn a new living style which is green and environmentally friendly", he says.

To Wang's surprise, rentals by foreign clients comprise 50 percent of the company's turnover.

Sabine Niehaus, a salesman from Germany, applauds the trend.

"A bike is a very good choice for tours. It can take you anywhere you want," she said.

According Wang, customers pick up a bike at one of the firm's rental stations, leave a 400-yuan ($53) credit card deposit, and pedal away.

When they are finished, they drop it off at the nearest rental station and their deposit is returned.

(China Daily 10/06/2007 page2)