Bicycle business for Olympic Games

To promote environmentally-friendly transport and ease grid-locked city streets before the Olympics, the government is urging people to take public transport, walk, or ride bikes.

Published October 7, 2007 by CCTV.com

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To promote environmentally-friendly transport and ease grid-locked city streets before the Olympics, the government is urging people to take public transport, walk, or ride bikes.

Bicycles were once the main mode of transportation in Beijing. Will a "Green Olympics" make them popular again? Entrepreneurs hope so.

One early morning in Beijing, a team of bicyclists hits the road. With their uniforms and brand new bikes, the group gets a lot of attention.

After a two hour ride, the team reaches its destination: the Shunyi Olympic Aquatic Park, where the Games' water sports will be held.

Wang Yong is the man behind the idea. His company, Bicycle Rental, brought 300 bicycles to the "Good Luck Beijing" test events for free. His plan is ambitious: to lend out over 5000 bikes during the Games — for free. He won't be making any money from THIS project, but he thinks it's still worth it.

Wang said, "I think as a Beijing resident and as an entrepreneur, it is an honor to be involved in the Games."

Wang started his rental business in 1993. Back then, his target clients were foreign visitors. But he lacked the information technology to grow his business, and it failed.

By 2005, Wang was running a successful restaurant. He decided to give the bike rental business another try, and says his timing couldn't have been better.

"Bicycling is a traditional mode of transportation. With our rental network, we can make the bicycle popular again. Beijing needs bicycles badly. We all drive cars, but during rush hour we can hardly move on the road! So we want bicycles."said Wang Yong.

According to Wang's plan, the rental network will cover the CBD district, subway stations, hotels and residential areas, all for a reasonable price.

Wang Yong said, "The basic principle of our pricing is the longer you rent, the less you pay. That's how we encourage people to ride the bikes more often. The rent is 20 yuan per day, 70 yuan per week, 60 yuan per month and 100 yuan per year. If you rent for a year, you're spending less than 0.3 yuan per day."

It's cheap, and it sounds easy. But what do customers think?

The rental place outside Beihai Park is the biggest in the network. But the most frequent customers here are still foreign visitors.

Bill is one of them. He says renting and riding a bike made him feel closer to the city. For the Olympics, over 600,000 foreign visitors will come to Beijing — a big market of potential bike renters. But once the foreigners leave, will Beijing locals do the renting?

Local residents have different voices, "I think I'll rent, it should be convenient."

"I think I'll ride my bike, it's easier. "

"I won't rent, if I rent here, what would I do if I can't find a rental place near my destination? I can't ride it back."

Right now, Wang Yong's biggest challenge is that his network isn't wide enough.He says it takes a lot of work to find a new rental site that can be wired to add to his network.

Wang said, "The only way this can work is with support from the government. After all, it's a business that benefits the public. It's closely tied to the daily life of local residents."

Wang Yong's business isn't making much money yet, but he's confident that the "green" theme of the Olympics will change that. He's planning to set up over 200 rental spots by 2008. Bikes may never replace cars in this town, Wang says, but they could become the better option.