How Did This Enviromental Solution Turn Into A Problem?

Thousands of bicycles are abandoned at huge bicycle graveyards

A few years ago, the sharing economy became booming business. More and more goods no longer had a permanent owner and became available to use only when the customer wished to do so. Cars, tools, houses and even pets can be shared these days. The bicycle industry surely didn’t stay behind, bike sharing companies popped up everywhere around the world. Where, at the first sight, this new industry seemed to be a great solution to fight pollution and reduce CO2 emissions due to the use of cars, it turned out to cause some serious problems on the other hand. Let Bicle introduce you to the bicycle graveyards.

The problem is sharing bikes

In China alone, 18 million bicycles have been made available for sharing during the last few years. To put that into perspective, those are enough bikes to give one to every person in the Netherlands. In the beginning of the sharing economy, over 60 bike sharing companies entered the market in China. But after a few years, only three big companies survived. Because of the bankruptcy of all the other companies, the supply that is way bigger than the demand, and due to a lack of governmental regulations, bikes are placed (of dumped, if you want) everywhere around the country.

Tons of waste

Of course, all these bikes are very space consuming, so the government started to remove the vehicles from the streets. But instead of recycling or destroying them, the bicycles were just placed on empty sites. Tens of thousands of bicycles are now stored throughout the country without any chance of being used ever again. Sometimes the bikes are even piled up, which makes them broken beyond repair. Such a waste of resources is the complete opposite of the idea of an environmental friendly sharing economy.

The solution

What could possibly be the solution for an industry that clearly grew faster than it could handle? First of all, it could be found within the sharing companies. Officials of those companies are already trying to bring back some of the abandoned bicycles, so that they can use them again. But their efforts are not nearly enough to prevent bikes from ending at the graveyards. Those companies could take their responsibilities, accept their financial loss, do good and give these bicycles a second life.

Give customers responsibility

Another solution could be found on the customer side of the story. More responsibility could be put in the hands of those customers. It could be made illegal to abandon your rented bicycle in a deserted area. Fines could be given to those who still try to or maybe they could even be blacklisted and prohibited to use the bike sharing program again.

The government could, and maybe should, have a role in finding the perfect solution for this problem. Without regulations, companies will probably keep their focus on the highest possible profit, instead of doing good for the world, and bicycle graveyards will grow even more.