How excellent this is

At first glance the photos vaguely resemble a painting. On closer inspection it might be a giant sculpture or some other art project. But in reality it is a mangled pile of bicycles covering an area roughly the size of a football pitch, and so high that cranes are need to reach the top; cast-offs from the boom and bust of China’s bike sharing industry.

Just two days after China’s number three bike sharing company went bankrupt, a photographer in the south-eastern city of Xiamen captured a bicycle graveyard where thousands have been laid to rest. The pile clearly contains thousands of bikes from each of the top three companies, Mobike, Ofo and the now-defunct Bluegogo.

No, really, it is wondrous. And it’s the Commie Chinese that have done it too.

We want, irrespective of anything else about the economy, a method of testing ideas to see if they work. Does the application of these scarce resources meet some human need or desire? Does it do so more than an alternative use, is it even adding value at all?

Bike shares, are they a good idea or not? The underlying problem being that expressed and revealed preferences aren’t the same. There’s only so far market research can take you, at some point someone, somewhere, has to go out and do it and see.

Excellent, the Commie Chinese have done so. Vast amounts of capital thrown into this, competing bike share companies, hire costs pennies. And no fucker seems very interested. That is, no, large scale bike share schemes don’t meet any discernible human need or desire, they don’t add value, spending the money on something else will increase human joy and happiness better.

And this is excellent, we’ve tried the idea and it don’t work. Now we can abandon it and go off and do something else therefore.

Which is the great joy of market based systems. They’re the best method we’ve got of finding out which ideas are fuck ups.

Long live markets.

24 comments on “How excellent this is

  1. Totally agree

    Unfortunately a bunch of sad f**ks with their hands on the levers will say that they didn’t do it right, the government wasn’t involved and peasants ‘on yer bike’, it’s good for you!

  2. A further question would be whether these companies genuinely were out to build this as a business, or just to scam idiots who think that this might ever be a good idea into investing.

    And even if it’s proven they were an investment scam, it certainly doesn’t mean that this could actually be done successfully by genuinely motivated people.

  3. I’m surprised they couldn’t find a buyer: if not for the company then at least for its assets (the bikes). They must have been poor quality indeed.

  4. Sharing a bike in London shows that you are cool, in China that you are a coolie.

    Plus, the bike is very likely to come apart at the seams as you ride it, and various tubes penetrate body orifices you sit on. Well, maybe. The first idea is probably correct.

  5. I signed up for Ofo while visiting Oxford recently. The problem was that I could never locate a bike when I wanted one. My suspicion was that most of the stock was resting inside people’s homes

  6. The point about Oxford is that bikes are the best way of getting around. The traffic is awful. Buses take ages to get anywhere because the traffic management is appalling. So you end up walking miles.

  7. Bikes are cheap enough to own (yes, even for Chinese city dwellers) that I can’t see much benefit in the hiring. One special issue there is that bike theft is rampant, increasing the cost of ownership.

    Now, car sharing is really taking off in Germany (I haven’t owned a car in over 4 years), but obviously the companies care more about their assets, there are fewer of them, and badly-parked cars get towed away. It’s also vastly cheaper for the occasional user to use car share than to own a car.

    My verdict is investment scam.

  8. ‘It is wondrous.’

    Agreed. Quite a monument.

    That they have no resale value* tells us all we need to know about the bikes.

    *Or at least the value is below the cost of sales.

  9. bilbaoboy is right, sadly. The socialist response to this will be that it is a good idea but people are not taking it up, so we need more disincentives to private bike ownership.

  10. Diogenes said:
    “The point about Oxford is … you end up walking miles”

    Why? Is there anywhere you’d want to go that’s much more than half a mile from Carfax?

    Take Magdalen & Folly Bridges, the station, and the Parks as boundary points; there’s nothing far outside that circle worth a trip.

    Other than the Perch, but that’s supposed to be a walk to get to.

  11. The burghers of Oxford need to sort themselves out and tax congestion. With none of the silly opt outs for electrics, hybrids, and the disabled.
    Imv, of course.

  12. @BiG

    “Bikes are cheap enough to own (yes, even for Chinese city dwellers) that I can’t see much benefit in the hiring”

    Multi-modal transport? Pretty sure it isn’t suburban commuters hiring the bike from near their house then riding it all the way to the centre. Even if you own a bike you may not want to take yours near the centre – pain on the train, worse or impossible on bus, coach or underground, and a theft target however you get it there. But a good number of folk will use a hire bike to get around town when they’re there.

  13. Richard, when it’s raining, it’s a bore walking from the Plain to Folly Bridge to the Ashmoleon, to Keble and back to the Plain. A bike would have been handy

  14. In the UK we have the wonderful situation where the State is investing in cycling, with stuff like Boris bikes in London, and then talking about forcing everyone to wear a helmet and ‘hi-viz clothing’ at all times, thus undermining their work promoting it.

    Forcing people to wear helmets and bright yellow jackets would kill Boris bikes stone dead. Our government really is as brainless as it could possibly be.

  15. They recently introduced them here and I wouldn’t get one, they look like unstable death traps and I’ve seen a few people skid and fall in wet weather

  16. Shanghai currently has 1.5m shared bikes on the streets, and despite its population being three times greater than London, that number far outstrips the 11,000 Santander Cycles peppered throughout the UK capital.

    I don’t think it’s possible to express that idea less clearly than demonstrated here (my emphasis). Well done by the Graun!

  17. Long live housing markets.They all work fabulously well especially when superintended by dimwit Tories.As Henry George pointed out years ago in the boring old past any market subject to land value inflation can fuck up the entire economy, as we all know but pretend it doesn’t matter.

  18. DBCR, let’s say you’re right Let’s says, likewise, that the price of baked beans is similarly warped.

    I mean, we all have our gripes. I’m a Randian. So everything seems wrong to me.

    I just wonder how you get from a crappy free bike idea to Georgist land taxes. Without, obviously, being a monomanical lunatic lacking all persuasive power. …

  19. I’m seeing quite a few share bikes parked at ferry wharves. Makes sense. Those are prime spots for bike theft. Better to hire a cheap bike for the 1-2 km trip from home to ferry than risking own bike.

    Except I skip the ferry bit and just ride my own bike all the way to work, where security is good.

  20. @EL
    I got to land taxes in response to Timmy’s bum-bugle cadenza to finish his above piece with all encompassing praise for markets “Long love markets” .These are, apparently, the best way to find out which ideas are fuck-ups.So Sayid Javid, a Conservative Minister has said that the house market is “broken” ie fucked up.
    My remarks are wholly reasonable I’m afraid.

  21. @DBC

    The housing market is broken due to two MSM unmentionables:

    1. Immigration: legal, illegal, “refugee”, Albanian (& other) children

    2. Gov’t interference – eg
    – minimum size of bedroom one may rent
    – planning permission

    Javid is a turncoat, anti-EU until Ref.

    The “Market” works if not interfered with Tesco, ASDA, Lidl, ALDI etc is good example.

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