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5 Hacks To Master Bike-Sharing In Beijing

Caroline He Jingkids 2021-10-19

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It's no secret that there's nary a street in Beijing that isn't littered with yellow, green, blue, or some other rainbow-colored bikes available to the masses, meaning getting round the capital is always a breeze. 


Unfortunately, many people – particularly foreigners – struggle with using them properly. But have no fear, for here are five tips on how to get the most out of the city's bike-share apps.


Real-name authentication


Before you can even scan a bike, you need to submit a real-name authentication. The process for Chinese citizens is relatively easy and requires nothing more than an ID number. For expats, however, it's not so straightforward and I've had to pay for my foreign friends' bike rides on more than one occasion, after they couldn't figure out the sign-up process. 


Nevertheless, it’s not so hard once you understand how it works.



For foreigners, begin by entering your full name, followed by your passport ID. For Hong Kong/Macao citizens, a Mainland Travel Permit for Hong Kong and Macao Residents ID is more ideal. Next, you have to upload a photo of yourself holding the ID card/passport. Take care to ensure that both your face and your passport/ID details are clearly visible.


Whereas Chinese citizens are granted immediate access to the platform, foreigners have to wait for several workdays for the real-name authentication to be approved. Therefore, make sure to begin the process before you actually need to use the bikes, lest it fails you during an emergency.


Lock your bike!


Time is money. And in this case, half an hour is worth RMB 1.5. So, what happens when you forget to lock the bike? Chances are someone else will take your bike and use it for another few hours, with all the costs falling to you!


Every public bike ride starts with a "click," when the lock around the back tire unlocks itself, thus allowing the bike to move.

Locked mode [Meituan bike]


When you're done with your ride, push the knob  – which was released when unlocked – back to its previous position. This will lock the bike and indicate that your journey has ended. The time between unlocking and locking the bike will decide your fee, so always remember to push the knob!


Unlocked mode [Meituan bike] Note the different position of the yellow knob from above. 


Where have all the bicycles gone?


Despite the absurd proliferation of bikes around town, there will be times when you can't find one to save your life (usually when you urgently need one). Of course, you can simply wander around and pray that there’s one on the next corner. But a much more efficient way is to let the apps do that for you.


Locations of Meituan bikes


When you open your bike-sharing app, you'll be presented with a map. A pin indicates where you are, while all the bikes indicate... well, bikes that are near you. Note that you'll only see bikes for the app that you're using, so don't go looking for a Hello Bike on Meituan's platform. What's more, if you drag the pin around, the map will refresh and show available bikes around the new location.


Parking Zones


There's nothing more confusing – or aggravating – than having a bike that won't lock. Especially when it's the first time you encounter this problem. More often than not, however, it's because you're trying to park in a designated "no bike parking" zone, which the city is actually implementing more and more.


Area of standardized parking (shaded)


On certain parts of the map, some areas are shaded, denoting a “standardized parking area.” If you try locking your bike in this area, chances are it won’t let you. Instead, you need to find a specific lane that can be seen on the map. Only then can you properly lock your bike.


Parking lanes


Actual parking lane


Quantity over quality


Always have more than one bike-sharing app. There will always be a time when you can’t find a single yellow bike around you, whereas the green kind, which app you never bothered to download, is everywhere. It's best to have at least two different bike-sharing apps, that way you can always find a bike that you can use.



Now, go out and have fun with your pick of the share-bike litter!


Images: Caroline He

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