Roland Berger study confirms China the world’s leader for bike-sharing

29 September 2018 4 min. read

A study from global consultancy Roland Berger has confirmed China as the world’s most prolific bike-sharing nation, with over 9 million bicycles now in circulation.

In an update on its 2016 global bike-sharing report, strategy and management consultancy Roland Berger has highlighted the dramatic increase in the number of bikes and bike-sharing schemes over the past two years, with the worldwide fleet expanding from around 1.2 million units in 2015 to over 10 million at the end of last year. The firm projects a further doubling in numbers to 20 million by just 2021.

Buoyed by ever more greatly congested cities and growing health and environmental concerns, along with consumer trends away from the accumulation of assets and a digitally-savvy modern milieu, the popularity of bike-sharing schemes continues to rise around the world, with 1,250 schemes of various model types now operating in 71 countries – up from around 1,000 in 2015 and including new global entrants Uber and Didi.Number of bike-sharing systems around the worldWhile growing globally, and tipped to reach to a worth of €8 billion over the next few years, much of the recent rapid growth – like many things in the global consumer economy, such as the luxury fashion and electric vehicle industries – has come courtesy of an phenomenal boom in Chinese market, which has since 2015 added over 8 million bikes to its national fleet – predominantly in Shanghai and Beijing.

These cities with Shenzhen combined now have an approximate 50 percent share of the world’s total number of shared-bicycles. With the country’s biggest schemes previously in Wuhan, Hangzhou, Taiyuan and then Shanghai (with 280,000 bikes less than a third of the number in Wuhan), Beijing was in 2015 barely on the map. Now the city – which is home to over 20 million residents – has a bike-sharing fleet in excess of 2.3 million units, with Shanghai contributing a further 1.7 million to the global tally.Development of global bike sharingAccording to Roland Berger, these numbers are only set to expand – projected at 20 percent growth annually through to 2021 – on the back of massive ongoing investments and continued public interest, with Asian market leaders ofo and Mobike already having some 200 million registered users apiece and an apparent $3 billion in venture capital having been amassed by Chinese private providers to further push Asian and global expansion.

For China, the consulting firm further points to a local bike manufacturing capacity upwards of 80 million units per year, a largely unregulated market, and unsaturated public demand as factors in the meteoric local rise in bike-sharing. However, as dramatic photos of mountainous bike dumps in the country attest, there are some concerns already for current over-saturation. Further, share-bike operators around the world have been feeling the squeeze from city authorities fed up with visual pollution and indiscriminate parking.

Such a clamp-down has occurred in Singapore, where unable to comply with a spate of new licensing regulations the locally-founded operator oBike has slipped into receivership and withdrawn a fleet of around 70,000 bicycles, with liquidators FTI Consulting fielding demands from thousands of disgruntled customers scrambling to retrieve some S$6.3 million in deposits. oBike is now being investigated by Singaporean authorities for misappropriation of funds.

The crash-and-burn stories of a sudden market proliferation are not an unfamiliar one, and Roland Berger predicts an upcoming period of consolidation in the bike-sharing domain; “Despite the promising opportunities offered by the burgeoning bike-sharing market, the rapid pace of growth is not without its pitfalls. Operators are faced with becoming the target of vandalism, or oversupply in certain cities. We predict the market will consolidate in the coming years, with a smaller number of high quality offerings surviving the initial boom to find longer term success,” the firm concludes.