The Bike-Share Oversupply in China: Huge Piles of Abandoned and Broken Bicycles

In 2017, bike sharing took off in China, with dozens of bike-share companies quickly flooding city streets with millions of brightly colored rental bicycles. However, the rapid growth vastly outpaced immediate demand and overwhelmed Chinese cities, where infrastructure and regulations were not prepared to handle a sudden flood of millions of shared bicycles. Riders would park bikes anywhere, or just abandon them, resulting in bicycles piling up and blocking already-crowded streets and pathways. As cities impounded derelict bikes by the thousands, they moved quickly to cap growth and regulate the industry. Vast piles of impounded, abandoned, and broken bicycles have become a familiar sight in many big cities. As some of the companies who jumped in too big and too early have begun to fold, their huge surplus of bicycles can be found collecting dust in vast vacant lots. Bike sharing remains very popular in China, and will likely continue to grow, just probably at a more sustainable rate. Meanwhile, we are left with these images of speculation gone wild—the piles of debris left behind after the bubble bursts.

A worker rides a shared bicycle past a huge pile of unused shared bikes in a vacant lot in Xiamen, Fujian province, China, on December 13, 2017.

Shared bikes stored and piled in Shanghai on February 1, 2018.

A worker untangles a rope amid piled-up bicycles in a lot in Xiamen, Fujian province, China, on December 13, 2017.

A parking lot is seen packed with tens of thousands of shared bikes belonging to the Chinese bike-sharing firm Bluegogo in Beijing’s Chaoyang District on March 5, 2018. Bluegogo, once China’s third-largest bike-rental service, ceased operations last November having run out of money, leaving tens of thousands of its bicycles in limbo. Bluegogo was recently acquired by Didi, another bike-share company, which says it plans to replace some of the older Bluegogo bikes with its own.

Thousands of illegally parked share bikes are temporary detained in a sports field in Hefei, Anhui, China, on August 17, 2017.

Bicycles from various bike-sharing services sit in a lot in an urban village in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, on September 7, 2017.

A man walks past piles of share bikes outside a repair shop in Beijing on April 13, 2017.

Shared bicycles block a pathway in Jiuxianqiao, Chaoyang district, Beijing, on July 14, 2017.

Bicycles of various bike-sharing services completely fill a large lot in Shanghai, China, on November 23, 2017.

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