Bike Sharing

In recent years one of the largest and fast growing trends in urban transportation service has been bike sharing. The bike sharing concepts has seen drastic growth in China and Asia, as a viable alternative to automobiles or public transit. In 2016, there were over 750,000 shared bikes in China; just two years earlier there were fewer than 140,000 worldwide.[1] Bike sharing programs in China have offered a solution to massive growth and expansion of urban communities, and a clean alternative to automobiles.  Original bike sharing platforms have used a physical bike racks or docks for users to pick up and drop of bikes. Today’s proliferation of smart phones has shifted the industry away from docks to virtual drop off and pick up locations. This allows customers to pick up and drop off bikes without the need for docks. The companies benefit from not having to build expensive docking stations at several points across a major city.

 

In recent years as the expansion of the bike service have expand outside of Asian markets into markets like Australia and United States. The culture difference between western and eastern market has resulted in some interesting market dynamics not seen in Asia.   The author Conor Wynn of “ Three reasons why share-bikes don’t fit Australian culture” used the Hofstede Model to identify the difference between Asian, specifically Singapore, and Australian markets. The three main model differences between the culture he identifies were power distance, individualism, and uncertainty avoidance.[2]

Power distance dimension as defined by The Hofstede Model our “‘the extent to which less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally’.” The higher the power distance the more defined culture hierarchy is in the society and respect for authority. Australia comparatively low power distance; and results in most Australians viewing rules, like drop off locations, as guidelines or suggestions. [3]

 

Individualism as defined by The Hofstede Model our “people looking after themselves and their immediate family only, versus people belonging to in-groups that look after them in exchange for loyalty.” The research shows Australians as considerably more individualistic than Singaporeans; which is common in Asian culture. Asian cultures are more concerned about the society and the long term impacts of their actions. Australians will focus on what benefits them in the short term, resulting in leaving bikes in non-designated areas.

 

Uncertainty avoidance as defined by the Hofstede Model, “can be defined as ‘the extent to which people feel threatened by uncertainty and ambiguity and try to avoid these situations’.” Singapore has one of the lowest uncertainty avoidance and the result is that Singaporeans are much more open to change. The open mindedness of Singaporeans has allowed bike sharing to gain wide acceptance and flourish.

 

The major culture difference between these two markets will have a major impact of the success of the bike sharing. Bike sharing companies will need to look at different ways to modify the behaviors of it western customers to develop good bike sharing habits. In the Wynn article, he suggests making it clear that the user is being monitored and that a penalty could be enforced if the rues are not followed. These problems will only grow larger as the bike share market increase in the West.

[1] “Factors influencing the choice of shared bicycles and shared electric bikes in Beijing” by Andrew A. Campbell, Christopher R. Cherry, Megan S. Ryerson, Xinmiao Yang

[2]Three reasons why share-bikes don’t fit Australian culture” by Conor Wynn

[3] “The Hofstede model Applications to global branding and advertising strategy and research” by Marieke de Mooij and Geert Hofstede

 

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