Italy's bike-sharing market to gain Chinese competitor

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-07-26 08:58

ROME — Italy has the most bike-sharing services in Europe, according to the latest available numbers from the environment ministry.

The number will soon increase with the addition of a new player - China's leading bike-sharing company Mobike, which announced Tuesday it had entered the Italian market after talks with local authorities.

Currently in Italy, visitors and locals alike can hop on one of a fleet of 13,770 shared bikes operated by seven different companies across 200 cities, towns and villages in the Mediterranean country, according to a November 2016 report by the ministry's National Observatory on Sharing Mobility.

This compares to two players in Germany - Call a Bike, run by a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn AG railway company, and nextbike GmbH - four in Belgium, one nationwide and three local - and Velib', a large-scale public bike-sharing scheme in Paris that is soon to be operated by French-Spanish consortium Smoovengo.

In Italy, bike sharing kicked off in earnest in 2003 when a company called Bicincitta (Italian for Bikesinthecity) launched the first bike sharing program as we know it today - a system in which, for a fee, users pick up a bicycle locked into a rack or electronic docking station, ride it, then return it to any station within the system.

Based in the northern city of Turin, Bicincitta operates a fleet of 6,241 bikes across 1,418 stations in 115 municipalities. Users sign up online, paying a membership fee of up to 49 euros ($57) a year. Bicincitta also operates in Switzerland and Spain, according to its website.

In Milan and Verona, Clear Channel has 4,900 bikes and 289 stations. Also operating in Italy are Centro in bici (31 cities, 2,498 bikes, 230 stations), By Bike (272 bicycles, 32 stations), Ecospazio (24 municipalities, 217 bikes, 30 stations).

A relatively recent arrival is TMR srl, which launched in the southern city of Palermo with 191 bikes, and E-Move (three urban locations, 22 bikes, three stations).

In Italy, the lion's share of the bike sharing business is located in the wealthier, more industrialized North (64 percent), followed by 22 percent in the South and 14 percent in the central regions, according to the environment ministry.

The Mediterranean country is the fourth overseas market for China's Mobike, following Singapore, Britain and Japan.

Mobike is scheduled to deploy hundreds of bikes to Florence for a trial run this week, with 30 minutes on a bike costing 0.3 euros. In August, 4,000 bicycles will be officially launched in Florence and Milan. Users can locate a Mobike using a cell phone app and unlock it by scanning a QR code on the bicycle.

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