Chinese bicycle sharing venture Mobike is getting underway in Israel, and will start to operate pilot schemes in several local authorities, among them Rehovot, Kiryat Bialik, Kiryat Motzkin, Kadima, Tsoran, the Dead Sea area, and the Jordan Valley Regional Council. Tel Aviv is noticeably absent from the list, but the company says that within the next few months it will start operating in Jerusalem and Ashdod.
The pilot will begin in the next two weeks, during which time the service will be offered for free (subject to downloading the relevant app). After that, the price will be NIS 2-4 per half-hour ride. The price will be uniform in all areas, and for all days of the week. Mobile was founded two years ago, and is now active in fourteen countries, with nine million bicycles. It has 200 million registered users making 25-30 million journeys daily.
In Israel, Mobike will operate through car-sharing company Car2Go of the Shagrir group (which also operates the AutoTel car-sharing venture in Tel Aviv). Mobike already has 2,500 bicycles in Israel, and expects this number to rise to 7,000 within a year. It will operate a help desk 24/7. The minimum age for using its bicycles is 16.
The existing bicycle sharing scheme in Israel, Tel-O-Fun, has already expanded beyond Tel Aviv, where it started, to take in the neighboring cities of Ramat Gan and Givatayim, and recently Bat Yam. It offers 2,000 bicycles hired from fixed stations.
Mobike's bicycles are not tethered to fixed stations. They can be picked up and left at any bicycle parking place. They have a built-in lock, and are hired using a special app, through which the nearest bicycle is located. The user unlocks the bicycle by scanning a barcode on it, and locks it in the same way at the end of the ride. The bicycles are connected to a GPS system enabling their movements and locations to be monitored. They will also be stationed at hot spots in accordance with ad hoc demand when public transport in unavailable or inadequate, such as at mass events.
Car2Go CEO Gil Laser said that although the company could theoretically place its bicycles anywhere without obtaining permission from the local authority, its policy was to operate in cooperation with the authorities. It offers local authorities the possibility of using its data to monitor public transport needs. Mobike's app is global, and tourists will be able to use the bicycles without pre-registration. Laser says that the hire fees will be at the levels prevailing in Europe, which are higher than in China.
Mobike was founded in 2015 by Hu Weiwei. Its value is estimated at $3 billion. The company, which has so far raised $1 billion, is active in the US, Australia, Germany, the UK, Italy, and in many cities in China.
The bicycles have no exposed cables, a belt rather than a chain, airless tires, and a cast aluminum frame (not particularly light). The seat is adjustable but cannot be stolen, and the bicycles have a front basket. Laser says these bicycles cost a quarter of the price of the bicycles used by other sharing services.
As far as Car2Go is concerned, the venture will enable it to expand its service offering. "We started ten years ago, and recently realized that our customers are our greatest asset, and that we should offer them comprehensive services for every kind of journey, allowing them to forego maintaining a private car, and now a bicycle as well."
Mobike is not the only bicycle sharing venture opening up in Israel. Chinese bicycle sharing company Ofo recently announced it was starting full service in Israel after a successful pilot scheme at Bar Ilan University. Ofo's operating model is similar to that of Mobike, with no fixed hiring stations.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 26, 2018
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