Growing industry needs regulation
The emerging bicycle rental industry is in urgent need of industry standards and unified management.
With the bike rental market growing rapidly thanks to the growing interest in amateur cycling around Qinghai Lake, more than 20 riding clubs have commenced operation in Xihai township since 2006, contributing to local economic growth.
However, the lack of regulations has raised concerns that illegal practices, customers being ripped off and safety loopholes could damage the growing industry.
“The biggest problem right now is the lack of standardization,” says Yu Xihai, founder of Xihai’s first and biggest club, the Riders’ Camp. “It’s not a business that anyone who has bikes can make quick profit in. It’s about how to guarantee the quality of service.”
Without competent logistical support, some family-run clubs are unable to provide timely maintenance or pick-up services when customers become stranded in remote areas because of mechanical faults with their bikes or extreme weather conditions.
“They lure guests by offering much lower rental prices, which puts the pressure on us. There is an urgent need to standardize service and pricing systems in the industry. Otherwise, it will be ruined by the price-cutting competition,” says Yu, who has developed his club from five bikes in 2006 to the current 1,500 bikes.
Wu Weimin, owner of another popular club, the 221 Riding Bar, welcomes the competition but urges the government to issue industry management rules.
“Without supervision, some clubs could easily cheat on guests. Such behavior has severely tarnished the businesses’ reputation. It’s time for the government to take some action.”
Wu says it’s more common to see riders withdraw from the tour because of mechanical breakdowns as the quality of bikes varies greatly between clubs. He also suggested the tourism or cycling authority set up public repair stations and tool stalls to support the industry.
Feng Jianping, vice-director of Qinghai Sports Bureau, says the government has sensed the urgency of introducing access rules and service standards for the growing industry, but it will take time to work them out.
“Related government departments have launched surveys and research, trying to collect more feedback and information. Regulations on price, service and punishments are expected to be released later this year.”
Meanwhile, club owners have started to manage on their own by joining forces to establish a non-governmental association.
Yu, initiator of the association, says communication between clubs helps to reach agreements while optimizing resources.
“We should try to make a bigger cake together rather than cutting it into small pieces. It takes time to let everyone understand it.”
Some bicycle clubs’ poor service has tarnished the industry, and led to calls for regulations.