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Unappealing side effects of sharing economy

China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-06 07:06

Unappealing side effects of sharing economy

More than 4,000 illegal parking bicycles impounded by authorities in Shanghai, March 1, 2017. [Photo/VCG]

LARGE NUMBERS OF TOURISTS flocked to Shenzhen Bay Park in Guangdong province on Monday using bikes they rented via bike-sharing service apps such as Mobike. There were so many cyclists that they blocked most of the bike lanes in the park and caused great inconvenience to other visitors. Southern Metropolis Daily commented on Wednesday:

A glance at the congested bike lanes in Shenzhen Bay Park would be enough to give people goose bumps. During the three-day Tomb Sweeping Day travel rush that ended on Tuesday, an average of 300,000 tourists visited the park each day, many of them riding station-less sharing bikes.

The influx of enthusiastic riders made park management difficult, as randomly parked bikes turned the beach bike lane into a makeshift parking lot. That explains why after the influx of cyclists on Monday, sharing bikes were forbidden to enter the park grounds the next day.

The rise of the sharing economy has been applauded, but the side effects are beginning to emerge. The parking chaos at Shenzhen Bay Park is but one example, but it will not be the last, as more bikes hit the road and management of them struggles to keep up.

Despite the increasing popularity of the bike-hire services, service providers have to make sure their bikes do not impose a burden on social governance.

It is laudable that several bike-sharing service companies have sought to cooperate with the Shenzhen government after their bikes flooded into the park, in an attempt to make amends. And their success in keeping most riders at bay the next day means that efficient management is possible if preemptive measures are taken and notice given in advance.

On its part, the Shenzhen government should have anticipated the trouble caused by the unlimited entry of bikes into the park. Although it is making progress in managing the sharing bikes, it has a lot more to do to help sharing bikes become an integral part of urban life. Specific boundaries have to be drawn with regard to where bikes can be left by their users.

Ultimately, a consensus needs to be reached among local governments, bike-hire companies, and customers that they have a shared interest in managing the use of such bikes. Whether the bike-sharing services will thrive hinges on flexible governmental guidance, the self-discipline of users, and the bike providers' efforts to hold unruly users to account.

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