Grow­ing in­dus­try needs reg­u­la­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE PULSE - By SUN XIAOCHEN

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.

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