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Bicycles Mean Less Demand for Fuel in East Asia

Residents ride bicycles from bike-sharing companies in Beijing, China. March 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
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Millions of people in cities across Asia are using phone apps to borrow bicycles for local travel.

This kind of technology is made for people who want to leave cars and motorcycles at home, and avoid spending money on a taxi service.

The Reuters news agency reports that bicycle sharing has been rising in popularity in places like Beijing, Taipei and Singapore.

FILE - A man rides past a station with bicycles of Youbike, a bicycle-sharing system, in Taipei, Taiwan, Aug. 31, 2017.
FILE - A man rides past a station with bicycles of Youbike, a bicycle-sharing system, in Taipei, Taiwan, Aug. 31, 2017.

China’s Ministry of Transport reports that the two-year bike-sharing trend has put over 16 million bikes in China alone. It adds that more than 100 million Chinese have registered for bike-sharing. That has reduced car use and demand for gasoline. Economists have predicted that demand for fuel will likely stop rising by the year 2025.

“I often use bike-sharing services because it’s very convenient,” said 36-year-old Wei Zhang, who uses a shared bike several times a week to go to work. “I can find it anywhere and will not worry about losing the bike,” the Beijing native added.

No one knows the exact number of bicycles on China’s streets or how much bike-sharing has affected fuel demand. But the government, oil companies and a study by Reuters all found that fewer people are using cars.

“Bike-sharing has been crazy since late last year,” said Harry Liu, who works as an advisor for IHS Market. He added that more people are using public transportation because they know they can finish their trip with a shared bicycle.

Even before the popularity of bike-sharing, observers were saying that the rising use of electric cars and better fuel efficiency meant an end for gasoline’s big growth story.

China’s gasoline demand growth is expected to slow to nearly 4 percent this year, compared with 6.5 percent growth last year. That information comes from Sri Paravaikkarasu, head of East of Suez oil at Facts Global Energy.

Asian bikes, Asian cities

Last month, a Chinese bike-sharing start-up company opened offices in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Washington, D.C. The company, called Mobike, was launched in April 2016. Another Chinese company, Ofo, provides a similar service. The two businesses have received more than $2 billion in private investment.

Mobike has 7 million bicycles worldwide. Ofo has more than 10 million, and plans to increase the number to 20 million in the next three months.

In Taiwan, the government supports a bike-sharing plan. Officials hope to have 12 percent of commuters using bicycles in trips to work by 2020. Five percent of commuters use bicycles now.

The Taipei city government hopes to have every citizen just 10 minutes from a bike by 2018.

Harry Liu of IHS said that bike-sharing could change the way people think about mobility and could change the transportation business.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Reuters news agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

phone appn. a computer program that performs an activity

trend n. something that is currently popular or fashionable

convenient - adj. allowing you to do something easily or without trouble

crazyadj. wildly; very excited

commuter - n. a person who travels regularly to and from a place