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The “Kingdom of Bicycles” is Back: 共享单车 (gòngxiǎng dānchē) is Exploding!

Jun. 16, 2017

Chinese General Kingdom of Bicycles

I’m going to tell you about China’s many 共享单车 (gòngxiǎng dānchē) programs. These programs are cheap, convenient and changing the way that locals and visitors are getting around in China.

I’ve been studying Mandarin Chinese in Beijing for nearly a year now. Myself and my fellow students wouldn’t dare buy a car and try to navigate the unknown streets of Beijing in it. For us, traveling on foot, train and bus has generally been the way to go. However, recently “共享单车 (gòngxiǎng dānchē) bike-sharing” programs have changed the way we move about Beijing and other Chinese cities.

Decades ago, China was known as the “Kingdom of Bicycles”. Before the enormous economic growth of the past decades, bicycles were the main form of transportation in the cities and images of streets packed with cyclists going about their day on wheels were world famous. Over the past years, however, the government has invested in the world’s largest train and highway systems. Bike use had been in a sharp decline.

Now, bikes are back! Due to congested roads and rising pollution levels, more and more Chinese citizens are turning to bike-sharing programs for necessary trips around the city and also for fun, casual joyrides. Although bike-sharing programs have been popular for many years in cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Boston, China now has 16 of the world’s 20 largest bike-sharing systems and they’re all growing rapidly!

There are over 20 different companies involved in 共享单车 (gòngxiǎng dānchē) programs. Two of the most popular and notable are“摩拜 Mobike” and “Ofo”. Ofo now has over three million bikes in 50 Chinese cities and is expanding internationally. Similarly, Mobike’s bright orange bikes are now becoming a common sight in Chinese cities. Users can download an app, pay a deposit and use the app to unlock the bike after making a small payment (only about $0.14/1RMB per half hour!) and make their travel plan for short trips around the city- often from the train station to their final destination.

These two companies, along with others, are not only changing the way locals get around, but also how Chinese language students are getting from A to B as well! I’m using my feet a lot less and riding on wheels on a daily basis now.

共享 (gòngxiǎng) = to enjoy together; share; sharing.

单车 (dānchē) = bicycle.

Put them together and get “共享单车 (gòngxiǎng dānchē) bike-sharing” system.


    Míngtiān wǒmen qí móbài dānchē qù gōngyuán ba!
A: 明天         我们    骑  摩拜    单车    去     公园     吧!
    Let’s take a Mobike to the park tomorrow.

    Wǒ shǒujī lǐ méiyǒu móbài ruǎnjiàn, dànshì wǒ kěyǐ qí Ofo dānchē qù.
B: 我    手机  里  没有     摩拜    软件,但是    我 可以 骑 Ofo    单车   去。
    I don’t have the Mobike app on my phone, but I can go with an Ofo bike instead.

A: 好!

So, if you find yourself in one of China’s many enormous cities, keep an eye out for a 共享单车 (gòngxiǎng dānchē) at every corner. You can’t miss them!


In China, you can unlock a 共享单车 (gòngxiǎng dānchē) by:

A) Swiping your credit card at the bike station
B) Putting coins into the bike lock
C) Making a payment through an bike-sharing app on your phone
D) Buying a ticket from a sales agent
See Answer

―Written by Elena Trevino―
Elena Trevino is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing studying the language to get a head start in international trade. She is most interested in seeing how Mandarin is affecting the fashion industry throughout the world as Chinese shoppers are now such a large factor. She is frequently attending fashion industry events in Beijing and throughout China.

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