SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Orange, yellow and other brightly coloured bikes have been popping up in cities across Asia, surprising residents and frequent visitors with their sudden ubiquity outside train stations and condo gates over the last two years.
The bikes, which users can rent for around S$1 (54p) an hour or less via mobile phone apps, are meant to complete the last kilometre or more of a journey, and are also being used for outings in urban parks and trips to the supermarket.
The two biggest bike-share operators, China-owned Ofo and Mobike, plan to be in more than 200 cities by end-2017 and end-2018, respectively. They will have a combined total of nearly 30 million bikes in operation by the end of this year, having together attracted more than $2 billion (£1.4 billion) in funding.
“We will consider expanding into any city where our smart bike solution can address local transportation needs and where we have ... support from local officials,” said Florian Bohnert, head of global partnerships at Mobike.
In an informal survey by Thomson Reuters across Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei and Singapore, 60 bike-share users talked about how the services had changed their travel patterns.
Eighteen percent of survey respondents - 11 out of 60 - said they were using the bikes instead of taking cars, taxis or motorcycles, a sign that some are moving away from carbon-intensive vehicles.
The other 82 percent would have walked or taken public transport, the survey showed.
Among the five cities, users in Beijing were the most committed, with six out of 15 respondents riding shared bikes daily, and the other nine using the bikes several times a week.
In Shanghai, five out of 10 people surveyed used a shared bike daily or several times a week.
Most of the respondents were males in the 20-40 age group. About half of the respondents used the bikes to commute to work or school.
Singapore had the highest percentage of people who changed from a private car or taxi to a bicycle. Taipei came in second, and Beijing and Shanghai tied for third.
All the respondents in Seoul switched from public transport or walking to the app-leased bikes, although the city-backed service there used docking stations instead of free-range bikes.
“It’s super cheap and convenient and there are stations everywhere. It’s easy to use and it’s a bit of exercise too,” said office worker Park Yongwon, 30, who cycled 1,000 km in the past year.
Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan and Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; Additional reporting by Jane Chung, Yuna Park and Heekyong Yang in SEOUL, Jessica Macy Yu and Faith Hung in TAIPEI, and the BEIJING and SHANGHAI newsrooms; Editing by Tom Hogue