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MainDBNew: Sustainable urban transportation with low-carbon mobility in the sharing economy. Shanghai case study.

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Sustainable urban transportation with low-carbon mobility in the sharing economy. Shanghai case study.







Scope of work
















Good practices and lessons learned

The value of sharing is central to human cultural development, exchange and wellbeing (Ma et al., 2017). The emerging sharing economy provided Mobike a collaborative way to transform Shanghai residents from passive consumers to active value co-creators (Lan al., 2017). In aligning its business with the core of the sharing economy, Mobike involved a high level of contribution from its users. Moreover, a self-organized group, known as the Mobike Hunters, implemented mechanisms of social regulation of Mobike users’ behaviour. The system incentivised good sharing behaviour by allocating Mobike credits for activities such as reporting damaged bikes and deterred violation of user rules by deducting points for behaviours such as inappropriate parking. As collaboration increased and users contributed to the company’s commercialisation through the app, both Mobike and its users were able to form concerted values of nurturing green, affordable and flexible transport. Mobile apps and other Information and Communications Technology (ICT) platforms provided Mobike a very direct way to enable and mediate shared mobility with its users. Embedded GSP technology in the bikes and real-time data easily links the FFBS service straight to the user through their mobile app. No rental station, dispatcher is needed and the fare payment is automatic. The ability of ICT platforms to rapidly pool information and facilitate exchange of resources has fostered app-based sharing networks to expand at unpreceded levels. Experts predict the app-based economy will be worth more than 5 trillion euros by 2021. In Shanghai, more than 10 million shared mobility users and 1.5 million shared bikes are operating through ICT platforms hosted on apps (Policy Brief No. 642018, GREEN-WIN, 2018). Mobike aligned its low-carbon transportation vision with the two key enabling factors of app-based mobility – convenience and cost (Policy Brief No. 642018, GREEN-WIN, 2018). Mobike appeals to users through its flexibility through an inexpensive ICT platform-based app and easy-to-access alternative urban transport. According to Prof. Chen Xiaohong from Tongi University (2016), by combining features of innovative technologies and sharing, Mobike and other low-carbon shared mobility providers can break the locked-in transport structures in cities such as Shanghai and therefore drive sustainable solutions.



Date of submission






Adaptation element

Impact assessment; Institutional arrangements; Stakeholder involvement; Technology support

Adaptation sector/theme

Energy; Infrastructure; Services

Climate hazard





Partner portal


The development of low-carbon transport models and sharing mobility are central to transforming carbon-intensive urban transportation systems and an important step towards achieving overall sustainable urban development. The rise of the sharing economy phenomenon has inspired numerous types of disruptive innovations with the potential to drive climate-smart urban transformation (Lan et al., 2017), particularly in the unique context of China. Long-standing problems within the critical urban sector of transportation in China such as congestion, carbon-intensive transportation modes, overcrowded public transport and air pollution continue to attract global attention and pressure to address these conditions. Mega-metropolitan areas and cities require disruptive innovations to meet their low-carbon visions and global greenhouse gas reduction targets (Policy Brief No. 642018, GREEN-WIN, 2018). Mobike, the focus of this study, introduced the world’s first free-floating bike-sharing (FFBS) scheme that began in Shanghai in April 2016 and now operates in more than 200 cities across the world (GREEN-WIN, 2018). The Mobike service operates through an app-based platform that allows users to locate, secure and pay for a nearby bike within 15 minutes. Each bike is equipped with a Location Based Service (LBS) system and unique Quick Response (QR) code so users can park the bike in any designated public bike parking space, providing Shanghai’s inhabitants with an alternative low-carbon commute. Mobike has over 200 million registered users worldwide and over eight million bikes serving its users around the globe (GREEN-WIN, 2018). At its launch, Mobike aimed to address the negative environmental impacts of the transportation sector by solving the last mile issue and synergistically aligning its green business vision with the Shanghai 2035 Master Plan, which chose green development as the key for the city’s sustainable transport system goals. The central objective of Shanghai 2035 is to achieve more than 85% green transport. The Master Plan identified low-carbon transport systems such as Mobike’s FFBS scheme as promising development areas (Ma et al., 2017). To further reduce its carbon footprint and ensure the longevity of the bike’s product life cycle, Mobike designed and manufactured its own bikes with durable (4+ years) and weather-resistant materials (solid aluminium body). In April 2018, Mobike was acquired by Meituan-Dianping, China’s largest provider of on-demand web services. Mobike has fostered change in the behaviour of Shanghai citizens through technological innovations (LBS, QR, apps) and social innovations (sharing mobility), which other businesses can leverage to develop green and affordable low-carbon solutions in cities.

Expected outcome


Further information

Despite governance challenges to realise the full potential of Mobike, the sharing economy still provides many opportunities to transform the way passengers commute in urban areas. Mobike exemplifies how apps and ICT platforms easily match consumer needs with a service or resource, while social networks and value co-creating can steer these innovations towards sustainable development. Sharing urban mobility through schemes such as FFBS can achieve win-win strategies for governments to meet low-carbon goals, provide residents with a sustainable alternative as well as increase economic value for businesses. Figure 2 (Policy Brief No. 642018, GREEN-WIN, 2018) below shows how shared values of sustainable development can be created and maintained through a collaborative governance model. By applying this model (Figure 2) at an early stage, principled engagement can promise businesses long-term implementation of their mobility schemes that continue to uphold the shared values and capacity of all stakeholders (Ma et al., 2017). The case of Mobike demonstrates how FFBS works in the app-based sharing economy and how a government-business-society collaborative regime can sustain the scheme and keep it aligned with Shanghai’s low-carbon visions. Moving forward, Mobike has been actively seeking government support to provide sufficient urban infrastructure and reduce uncertainties of its integration in the urban transportation system. The company has been seeking collaboration through other creative channels, engaging actors and influential academic and media figures to garner support. With key collaborations and strong governance strategies formed at an early stage, Mobike is an example of how business can use the sharing model in this new economy to steer social and technological innovation towards sustainable transportation (Ma et al., 2017).


Local; National; Regional

Indicators of achievement



Case study




Global Climate Forum e.V.



Regional group


Target group

Academics and scientists; Communities; Policy makers; Practitioners; Private sector






Mobike’s entry into the market as a strong and fast growing business coupled with government cooperation was understood as a misleading market signal for great business opportunities (GREEN-WIN, 2018). This led to over-investment, competition, and over-supply of bikes in a very short period. The success of Mobike in Shanghai triggered 13 new companies to launch similar FFBS schemes between January to August 2017. By the end of June 2017, Shanghai was flooded with more than 1.7 million shared bikes and over half of the city’s residents were registered users of a FFBS scheme (Ma et al., 2017). Consequently, these impacts on the market formed negative interactions with local Chinese governments and the city authorities of Shanghai, for instance, responded by removing 300,000 bikes from public areas and by placing obstacles to limit companies’ operation. The rapid upscale led to user misbehaviour such as vandalism, dumping and illegal parking of the bikes, which exacerbated the material stress on public spaces already caused by the flooding of bikes. These increasing pressures dramatically altered government and citizen attitudes towards FFBS schemes, breaking down initial support and concerted efforts to adapt Mobike to Shanghai’s infrastructure. BENEFITS AND KEY LEARNINGS Reducing environmental impacts and achieving socio-economic benefits through low-carbon shared mobility Mobike contributes to an alternative urban lifestyle through access-based mobility rather than private vehicle ownership, eliminating high costs of insurance, parking, maintenance and fuel consumption for users. This, in turn, can significantly reduce CO2 emissions and other material environmental impacts of car production, usage and infrastructure. A 2017 report by Tsinghua University (TUPDI, 2017) shows how 200 million Mobike users in 200 global cities riding across 18.2 billion kilometres reduce about 4.4 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. At the same time, reducing emissions by commuting with low-carbon shared mobility also benefits the user by nurturing positive sharing behaviour and encouraging an active lifestyle. Key Learnings Forming collaborative relationships with key stakeholders at an early stage was critical for Mobike (GREEN-WIN, 2018). Detachment between Mobike and local Chinese governments were not realised until rapid up-scale processes caused disruptions and stresses to governance. The transportation sector possesses a unique set of challenges and implementing FFBS or other low-carbon mobility schemes in the sharing economy is a cross-sectoral issue: multilateral engagement of citizens, governments, public and private actors was missing at an early stage (Ma et al., 2017). In addition to sharing bikes, Mobike also shares data and carries responsibilities that require a ‘virtuous sharing environment’ to support all present and future operational needs (Policy Brief No. 642018, GREEN-WIN, 2018). It is necessary to consider governance strategies to mitigate the outlined negative effects and effectively adapt low-carbon mobility schemes such as FFBSs brought by the sharing economy to cities (Ma et al., 2017). Without local government support to provide road space, parking and other public resources, poorly executed operations of the FFBS schemes can frustrate both users and local municipalities (Policy Brief No. 642018, GREEN-WIN, 2018). Trust building is fundamental to sustain the shared motivations between Mobike and local governments, namely synergising FFBS schemes with a sustainable urban transportation system (Ma et al. 2017). Consistent dialogue and continued engagement between key actors can build trust to ensure all parties allocate relevant resources in a balanced manner to prevent adaptive lags or disruptive up-scaling. While inexpensive apps and simple ICT platforms can rapidly expand sharing networks, FFBS and other sharing mobility schemes must ensure governments have adequate time to integrate appropriate public resources into its infrastructure. This can also ensure Mobike and similar companies allocate an appropriate number of bikes that are optimally distributed to avoid over-supply while still meeting demand.



Type of knowledge resource


Scale of work





China bike sharing and urban development report, Tsinghua Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI), 2017, Beiing. GREEN-WIN. (2018). Deliverable 6.1: Disruptive Innovation, Win-Win Sustainability and Adaptive Lags in the Sharing Mobility Economy (Policy Brief No. 642018). GREEN-WIN. GREEN-WIN. (2018). Mobike: dock-less and app-based flexible bike sharing scheme. GREEN-WIN. Lan, J., Ma, Y., Zhu, D., Mangalagiu, D., & Thornton, T. (2017). Enabling Value Co-Creation in the Sharing Economy: The Case of Mobike. Sustainability, 9(9),1504. Ma, Y., Lan, J., Thornton, T., Mangalagiu, D., & Zhu, D. (2018). Challenges of collaborative governance in the sharing economy: The case of free-floating bike sharing in Shanghai. Journal of Cleaner Production, 197, 356–365.

Implementing partners







Content Type: NWPSearchableItem
Version: 1.0
Created at 10/10/2018 14:30 by Serkant Samurkas
Last modified at 10/10/2018 14:30 by Serkant Samurkas