China's Mobike Wants its Bicycles to Cover 100 Cities This Year

China’s bike-sharing war will spread beyond the country this year with Mobike planning to more than triple its coverage to more than 100 cities globally before the end of 2017.

Mobike’s orange-hued bicycles have become a staple of Chinese sidewalks since it started formal operations last year. It’s attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from backers including Tencent Holdings Ltd., Warburg Pincus LLC, TPG Capital, Temasek Holdings Pte and Foxconn Technology Group. The startup will officially start services Tuesday in Singapore, its first non-Chinese location, where rival Ofo has also expanded.

Once the symbol of China’s working class, bicycles have become the latest battleground for global capitalists who are pouring money into apps that allow users to rent them in 30-minute increments. The advantage for clients is the ability to leave bikes wherever they’d like. Some of the largest providers in the nascent sector are already looking to expand overseas to gain scale, as the number of domestic players reaches saturation.

“This year our hope is to enter more than 100 cities,” said Hu Weiwei, a Mobike co-founder, adding they were currently in about 30 hubs around China. Much of that expansion will be domestic, but she said Mobike will also cover international cities beyond Singapore this year. It didn’t have a target for how many, Hu added.

Mobike has created a Singapore-specific model that obeys local safety regulations and will place the bikes at locations away from the city center to prevent congestion, she said.

That helps address an issue that’s been contentious back home. Chinese media has reported that the Shanghai Municipal Government is banning bike-sharing services from placing new bicycles on the city’s sidewalks. A Mobike spokeswoman said the government agency had already denied the accuracy of those reports.

Ofo’s overseas expansion also includes the U.S. and U.K., the company has said.

— With assistance by David Ramli

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