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Transport ministry to introduce credit system for bike-sharing

With bike-sharing companies having ballooned in China over the past year, the country’s top transport authority is to establish a credit system in order to help regulate the market.

According to the Ministry of Transport (MOT), the country now has over 30 bike-sharing companies, operating over 10 million bikes. Now, a national guideline is collecting public comments, addressing prominent problems such as uneven distribution, road safety and credit for both users and companies. Wu Chungeng, spokesperson of the ministry, says: “We approve setting up a database for companies and users to share relevant information with the country’s other credit platforms. We encourage companies to share data, as well as collectively giving bonuses or punishments to users.”

To sign up to use a bike-sharing service, users are charged a deposit of between 99 and 299 yuan (between about $14 and $43) per account. The ministry estimates that the total amount of bike-sharing deposits in China has reached at least five billion yuan (about $700 million), and is encouraging companies not to charge users with such deposits. One company says that’s ok — as long as users’ credit can be guaranteed.

“I can choose not to charge deposits when a user has a good credit record. For example, we’re cooperating with a credit platform, we offer a deposit-free service to users with over 660 points on that platform,” said Yan Zhengsheng, chief operating officer of Zeebike, a firm offering an electric-bike sharing service.

“We think deposit-free is the trend of the future. We already reduced our deposits from 199 to 99 yuan (about $29 to $14) last month. I think companies just charge deposits when they are not strong enough, for self protection. But when bike-sharing becomes a social service supported by the government, we can charge no deposits or a very small amount,” Yan added.

The MOT plans to write up a memorandum on credit system building along with the country’s top economic planning body, and carry it out together.

On May 22, a guiding opinion was released by the MOT. It requires municipal governments to research parking management of shared bikes, and users’ real-name registration. The document says shared bikes should not be provided to children under 12 years old, and shared-bike companies should promote the use of “electronic fences.” The proposed “electronic fence” would prevent users who park bikes outside set areas from locking them, meaning they will continue to be charged.

The ministry is allowing the public to send in comments for two weeks.