Mobike looks to control parking with new feature

Mobike has launched a new service in Shanghai to prevent users from parking their bicycles in wrong areas.
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

The Mobike app shows a prohibited parking area on Shimen Road No. 1. 

Bike sharing firm Mobike has launched a new feature in Shanghai to prevent users from parking its cycles in prohibited areas.

With help from local police, “electronic fences” have been installed around People’s Square, Lujiazui and other areas where users are not allowed to park bikes.

Prohibited areas will appear in gray on the Mobike app. If users attempt to park in these areas, they will receive a text alert and hear an alarm. Users can find recommended parking areas by clicking on the “P” icon that also appears in the app.

Those who violate the rules will lose Mobike points and see a decline in their credit rating on the app. Repeat offenders risk being banned from using Mobike.

During a trial run of its new feature, Mobike noticed that fewer of its bikes were parked in prohibited areas. Mobike will later expand the feature with guidance from police and other authorities, according to the company.

Zhu Qian, an executive with Mobike, said the e-fences are part of the company’s digital management plan in Shanghai. In the future, Mobike will put more restrictions on bicycle parking via tech features and fees. For example, those attempting to park in no-parking areas may be unable to lock their bikes.

Other shared bike firms have also introduced electronic fences. Ofo applied such fences in Yangpu District, with coordination from the district’s traffic police. Shared e-bike operator Xiangqi is so far the only company with a city-wide electronic fence system.

Guo Jianrong, president of city’s bicycle association, told Shanghai Daily that it’s a good idea to use technology to regulate the parking of shared bicycles. However, whether the outcome will meet expectations remains unknown. He believes that to solve the parking problem, bike sharing companies should control the number of bikes they release to the public and also provide good maintenance.

“Currently many of the shared bikes on the roadside are not in a good condition,” Guo said.

Fang Le, who has been using Mobike for two years, said the punishment may not be enough to discipline those who park in prohibited areas.

“The system deducts 20 points from your account once you are reported or detected by the system,” said Fang. “I have 634 points and I think it won’t hurt me much.”

Fang also wondered how many times one would have to park in a restricted area before being suspended. Mobike did not gave an answer to this question. “The system will dynamically monitor the user’s behavior,” said a company representative.

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