Kids to be locked out of China bike-share apps

A girl riding an Ofo bicycle in Shanghai. After meeting with Shanghai officials, operators of Mobike, Ofo and Bluegogo promised to revamp equipment and security procedures to block underage users from accessing their bikes.
A girl riding an Ofo bicycle in Shanghai. After meeting with Shanghai officials, operators of Mobike, Ofo and Bluegogo promised to revamp equipment and security procedures to block underage users from accessing their bikes.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SHANGHAI • The operators of three major bike-sharing apps in China have pledged to make it more difficult for children to access their services amid concerns that they are using rental bicycles on public roads.

China's traffic law bars children under the age of 12 from riding bicycles and tricycles on roads, yet a rapid rise in the popularity of shared bikes in cities nationwide has resulted in more young people breaking the law.

After meeting with Shanghai officials, operators of Mobike, Ofo and Bluegogo promised to revamp equipment and security procedures to block underage users from accessing their bikes.

"We will replace the mechanical locks on our bikes with smart ones, which will help put an end to illegal use by children," said Ofo's public relations manager Ren Baoluan.

Netizens have said that Ofo's bicycles are easy for children to access as their locks require only a four-digit combination, which some users forget to scramble when they finish their journey, meaning the bicycles can then be ridden for free.

Ofo said that with smart locks, which Mobike and Bluegogo bikes already have, users will be able to unlock a bike only after receiving a dynamic password on their smartphones. They can end the service only when a bike is properly locked.

The companies said they will jointly assign specialists to patrol key areas such as schools and parks, and cooperate with neighbourhood committees to crack down on underage cyclists. Ofo will also place a warning sign on each of its bicycles.

The authorities responded to the issue after receiving complaints that children had been seen racing bikes owned by the app operators, which, in some cases, had resulted in injuries.

Statistics from the Shanghai Education Commission show that 245 non-motor-vehicle-related traffic accidents involving children under the age of 12 were reported in the city last year, causing one fatality and 85 injuries.

The total number of shared bikes in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou has surpassed 100,000.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2017, with the headline 'Kids to be locked out of China bike-share apps'. Print Edition | Subscribe