November 29, 2017

"A share bicycle graveyard viewed from the air in Xiamen, south-east China."

A fantastic photograph.

From "Chinese bike share graveyard a monument to industry's 'arrogance'/Future of dockless bicycles under a cloud amid concerns there are too many bikes and not enough demand" (The Guardian).

30 comments:

n.n said...

It requires a monopoly to force an economic misalignment, and a government to force a progressive economic dislocation.

Humperdink said...

So the Chinese recycled our scrapped cars into bicycles. The scrapped bicycles will be coming back to the US as Grade 8 high strength nuts and bolts for our bridges. The circle of life.

rhhardin said...

I have a few bicycles around. They last about 40,000 miles before they need too many new parts at once so it's cheaper to get a new one. It's the basement bicycle graveyard.

mockturtle said...

Some could be persuaded it is 'art' and would happily pay millions for it.

mandrewa said...

There is a moral or economic message here. Apparently, and I wouldn't have guessed before actually seeing it, ownership or private property, in this particular case anyway, seriously beats sharing.

In other words, there are unanticipated negative consequences to sharing things.

rhhardin said...

I may have oversubscribed to the current bicycle by stocking four spare rear axles for it.

tcrosse said...

There must be a lot of fish in China.

Fernandistien said...

roughly the size of a football pitch

That's probably a lot bigger than a baseball pitch because a football is bigger than a baseball.

Dockless bikes are officially here, folks. (Sep 20
"Bikes from the newest trend in bike-share were spotted across D.C. — mostly in downtown– Wednesday, as part of the launch for at least three companies.
...
Holly Krambeck, a transportation economist(!) at the World Bank(!!), said she was delighted to see a Mobike during her morning walk to work Wednesday. She had downloaded the Mobike app during a work trip in China earlier this year."

The next step is to figger out what "dockless" means because everyone else already seems to know. Does it mean you don't have to return them to where you got them? If not, does my old bike have a dock?

Fernandistien said...

Dockless bikes are officially here, folks. (Sep 20)

Rusty said...

n.n.

Winner

Dust Bunny Queen said...

In other words, there are unanticipated negative consequences to sharing things.

Exactly so. Ownership tends to create a pride of ownership, a caring for the things you have ownership over.

Communal things are just not treated with the same care. The Pilgrims learned this lesson when they tried to have a communal or socialist society.

Plymouth Plantation Gov. William Bradford describes here the outcome of the colony’s ambitious “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”

LINK to his actual words

The experiment in socialism was a complete failure.

The first two years the result was shortages and starvation. About half the colonists died. No one did more than the minimal because the incentive to excel was destroyed. The industrious were neutralized. Bradford wrote of the scarcity of food “no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any.” The socialist experiment Bradford added, “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to the benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense….” In other words, socialism made strong men lazy.

People starved. At least this boneyard of bikes is just bikes. How many millions of Chinese have died in the name of Socialism? Too many.

How many times do WE need to learn this lesson. Too many.

Unknown said...

All the right thinking people of Boston were shocked to learn, in the 70's and 80's, that the lovely government built and paid for housing they provided at Columbia Point had turned into a slum. It seems the non-owner residents of the place didn't have an economic interest and commitment to keeping it up and clean.

Throwing away free stuff is one of the easiest things to do.

-sw

mockturtle said...

Excellent observation and parallel, DBQ!

Robert Cook said...

"There is a moral or economic message here. Apparently, and I wouldn't have guessed before actually seeing it, ownership or private property, in this particular case anyway, seriously beats sharing.

"In other words, there are unanticipated negative consequences to sharing things."


That wasn't the problem here. Bicycle sharing works in NYC because there are docking areas where users go to pick up a bike and to turn in a bike. The dockless system in China involved self-locking bikes, rather than bikes that would be locked at a dock. Riders would find them wherever they might be, using a smart-phone app to track the nearest GPS-equipped bike(s). Riders would also simply leave the bikes wherever they wanted. This created a chaos: where could one go where there would be sufficient bikes available? By the time they got to where they saw a bike on their app map, it might have been taken by another rider. How could the cities deal with the accumulation of bikes in chance volumes throughout the area, creating congestion? Riders still had to pay for their rides, just as they do with Citibike in NYC. They just weren't required to leave them in any particular place, causing a crisis of disorganization.

In short, it was a bad business plan, done on the cheap. It freed the bike company from having to rent city space and pay to build and install bike docks in the rented spaces.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawback. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages.

Thomas Friedman, shilling for Obamacare.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Robert Cook said...

It freed the bike company from having to rent city space and pay to build and install bike docks in the rented spaces.

So you're saying the problem was not socialized bikes, but socialized sidewalks?

jaydub said...

In the early 80's, during the same week when China was first opened for US tourists, my wife and I happened to be in Hong Kong. We took a ferry to Macau which was the designated entry point, and then a two day bus tour into the Pearl River Valley. What struck me at the time was the absence of autos and trucks and the incredible number of bicycles. Over the 180km between Macau and Guangzhau we counted about 10 autos and a dozen or so trucks, but there were thousands of bikes tooling down the road with sacks of rice and other farm products balanced on the back wheel. Once in Guangzhau, we passed large squares that were essentially mammoth bike parking lots, packed from one end to the other with rusted bikes, but we still saw few cars. Fast forward to 2005, which was the next time I was in China, and the rural two lane roads had been replaced by six and eight lane freeways and the bikes replaced by endless traffic jams. The transformation was drop-jaw astounding. The country had transitioned from a 19th century rural backwater to a 21st century metropolis of around 10 million in just over 20 years. Those photos of the junked bicycles in the article are quite similar in appearance to the bike parking lots in Guangzhau, only bikes parked standing up instead of stacked on their sides. We asked the tour guide how anyone could find their own bike in tens of thousands in the squares, and she said that people just took whichever bike was closest if they couldn't fine their own. I guess that was the precursor to this pick-a-bike-and-leave-it-where-you-want, i.e., they've been doing this on an informal basis for a long time.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Thank you Mockturtle <3

Luke Lea said...

When the state owns and controls the banking system it is impossible to have a rational allocation of capital. Which industries get loans becomes political rather than based on market prices, whose function is to signal the true state of supply and demand. The tragedy is that the life savings of the Chinese people are being squandered in the process. I suspect there will be hell to pay down the road.

mandrewa said...

Bicycle sharing works in NYC because there are docking areas where users go to pick up a bike and to turn in a bike. The dockless system in China involved self-locking bikes, rather than bikes that would be locked at a dock. Riders would find them wherever they might be, using a smart-phone app to track the nearest GPS-equipped bike(s). Riders would also simply leave the bikes wherever they wanted.

Well, I see your point. But dockless or docked, people are still sharing bikes. Taken narrowly all this does is prove that sharing dockless bikes has amazing negative consequences.

We should also note that the New York scheme for bike sharing wouldn't work in most of urban China.

If you take a look at this youtube video, www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0RXyzBmsvc

you will see that public space in China is quite limited. If the companies owning these bicycles had to buy the space to dock their bikes, it would always have been too expensive to imagine doing this except in low population areas (and of course there are a lot of places like that).

So the dockless bike idea is essentially free-loading on the shared public space, which seems kind of appropriate, because it is really sharing.

Michael The Magnificent said...

When the state owns and controls the banking system it is impossible to have a rational allocation of capital.

You could say the same about government-backed student loans.

curt replies said...

Katie Melua has a song for this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHQG6-DojVw

Robert Cook said...

"So you're saying the problem was not socialized bikes, but socialized sidewalks?"

It wasn't socialized anything...the bike companies in China are private concerns. It was because the bike companies wanted to implement their services without having to pay for infrastructure. They provided bikes but didn't provide docking stations. This saved them the cost of making/installing the stations, as well the burden of negotiating contracts to rent public property for their docking stations.

As is often the case with captialists, they wanted to ensure more profit by cutting out unwanted expenses necessary to ensure ease of use, safety, convenience, and so on.

Robert Cook said...

"In the early 80's, during the same week when China was first opened for US tourists, my wife and I happened to be in Hong Kong. We took a ferry to Macau which was the designated entry point, and then a two day bus tour into the Pearl River Valley. What struck me at the time was the absence of autos and trucks and the incredible number of bicycles. Over the 180km between Macau and Guangzhau we counted about 10 autos and a dozen or so trucks, but there were thousands of bikes tooling down the road with sacks of rice and other farm products balanced on the back wheel. Once in Guangzhau, we passed large squares that were essentially mammoth bike parking lots, packed from one end to the other with rusted bikes, but we still saw few cars. Fast forward to 2005, which was the next time I was in China, and the rural two lane roads had been replaced by six and eight lane freeways and the bikes replaced by endless traffic jams. The transformation was drop-jaw astounding. The country had transitioned from a 19th century rural backwater to a 21st century metropolis...."

Gee, when you put it that way, the "rural backwater" sounds better and smarter than the "21st century metropolis."

tcrosse said...

Gee, when you put it that way, the "rural backwater" sounds better and smarter than the "21st century metropolis."

The Chinese disagreed, but what do they know ?

Darrell said...

My English girlfriend was called the village bike. Funny, because she never wanted to go biking here.

Clyde said...

Re: DustBunnyQueen @ 10:16 a.m

+1000

Excellent essay on the tragedy of the commons.

jaydub said...

"Gee, when you put it that way, the "rural backwater" sounds better and smarter than the "21st century metropolis."

Maybe, if you discount the issue of standing all day in knee deep water buffalo excrement in the rice paddies, then coming home to a one room house that slept 10 and had no plumbing or electricity. That and the fact that you had to peddle a hundred kilometers or so to market with a couple of 200kg sacks of rice balanced on the rear wheel and your wife on the handlebars. Those things discounted it was sheer paradise, but why do I think the leftists who idealize that kind of poverty would ever actually want to experience it themselves?

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

Odd about the distribution of colors. Almost like they were sorted prior to dumping. Unless certain colors were region specific.

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