These bikes are the runoff of China’s burgeoning dockless bike-shareindustry, which has spread rapidly in the last two years and caused major clutter issues in urban centers. Included in the pile are bikes from three of the country’s biggest private dockless operators: Mobike, Ofo, and Bluegogo, the last of which declared bankruptcy this month and entered into a strategic partnership with yet another firm, Biker.
Unlike traditional bike-share programs, the dockless model forgoes fixed stations in favor of bikes that users can pick up and drop off wherever they like. Riders use a smartphone app to find WiFi-enabled bikes nearby, then park them outside their final destination.
The dockless bikes have flooded Chinese cities, leading to sidewalks clogged with discarded or destroyed rigs. The initial plan was to ensure that enough bikes were always available, but overwhelming demand never developed. Chinese transportation experts estimate that an area like Shanghai would benefit from up to 600,000 bikes, but the city has nearly three times that amount on its streets.
The result of this kind of oversaturation? Heaps of colorful bicycles destined for the scrap yard.
It could serve as a warning to companies like Spin and LimeBike, which this year brought their services stateside. LimeBike, which has entered nearly 20 U.S. markets since the beginning of the year and plans to further expand in 2018, has even partnered with NFL star Marshawn Lynch to promote dockless bike share in Seattle and the Bay Area.
“Because we are a U.S.-based company, we’ve had time to learn from the mistakes of earlier ventures across the Pacific,” said LimeBike spokesperson Jack Song, suggesting that the U.S. market could avoid the oversaturation seen in China.
See how dockless bike share works in Seattle:
Although the massive bike graveyard was discovered in Xiamen, a coastal city of nearly 2 million in Southeast China, it’s not yet known if all the equipment came from the area or had been trucked in from elsewhere.