First bikes are shared, now umbrellas are

Following Shanghai's bike sharing craze, an umbrella sharing service has been set up in the city. Over 50,000 shared umbrellas will be launched on the Metro network this year.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

Pouring down with rain outside? Not a problem for many passengers using Line 2 on the Metro. An umbrella sharing service has been launched in the city. At East Nanjing Road Station yesterday, the brollies are all set to go.

It is a common sight to see people huddled at Metro exits trying to avoid being drenched during downpours.

Now help is at hand — as the city's emerging umbrella sharing service gets under way.

From August 5, umbrella sharing boxes started to appear in stations along Metro Line 2, such as Zhongshan Park, Weining Road and Songhong Road.

To obtain a shared umbrella, download the application to register. Click “borrow umbrella” button and scan a QR code on the app to unlock an umbrella from the box. The app is also used to return the umbrella.

Boxes hold up to 48 umbrellas and "smart boxes" can also dry soaking umbrellas. The Shanghai-based service provider, Mosun, added that its staff will replace broken umbrellas and place new ones in boxes everyday.

Mosun added umbrella sharing boxes are installed at nearly all stations along Line 2. By the end of this year, the company is expected to have more than 50,000 shared umbrellas in some 1,000 boxes covering all Metro stations in the city.

The company expects to expand the service into office buildings and major shopping malls.

For local residents, umbrella sharing is an idea whose time has come.

"I usually bring an umbrella myself, but I think this would be really useful when you get caught by a sudden shower," said one passenger, Kay Luan. "Particularly in summer."

In the sharing box sited by Exit 3 of East Nanjing Road Station, the Shanghai Daily found six out of 48 umbrellas had been borrowed. However, probably due to a bad internet connection in Metro station, the scanning didn't work when one passenger tried to unlock an umbrella.

The share an umbrella concept has been tried before. The city's Metro operator launched a public umbrella service in 2008, when passengers could borrow an umbrella after registering with the station’s service center. But the project was discontinued due to umbrellas not being returned.

Now a deposit system has been introduced to make the service more sustainable, said Huang Jianliang, who founded Mosun.

With a deposit of 39 yuan, one can use the umbrella for free for the first 24 fours. If the user fails to return the umbrella after that, he or she will be charged a daily 2 yuan rental fee. After seven days the system will consider the user to have bought the umbrella.

Unlike the credit system applied by bike sharing companies, users will not be blacklisted if they fail to return the umbrella.

"I think the service will be very helpful, but at the same time I'm worrying that some people might return bad umbrellas or break the umbrellas, like shared bikes were vandalized," said a resident, Zhang Qiuyun.

Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE