A Chinese photographer has captured jaw-dropping drone footage of the country’s infamous “bike graveyards,” a problem borne of too many bikes and not enough customers.
Wu Guoyong flew his drone over 15 different sites in China to capture these rainbow-colored mass graves where dockless bikeshare bikes from companies such as Ofo, Bluegogo, Gobee, and Mobike live out their last moments. The ensuing video—”No Place to Place”—is set to a Blade Runner 2049-style soundtrack and showcases thousands of broken, vandalized, and abandoned bikes. His video has been viewed 44 million times on Chinese video platform QQ.
The photographer told the South China Morning Post that he sees “shared bikes as useful, but the cemeteries expose a moral problem in the landscape of China. We’re throwing away bikes! That just doesn’t seem right.”
Bikeshare has come under fire in recent months for having an unsustainable business model. The Beijing-based Ofo recently laid off the majority of its US staff, just months after getting an $866-million cash infusion. In less than three years, the company has raised more than $2 billion in venture-capital funding, according to Crunchbase.
In 2017, competing bikeshare businesses started flooding cities around the world with more bikes than they could handle in the hopes of dominating the market and squeezing out competition. In the US, cities stunned by the sudden appearance of bikes in every nook and cranny quickly maneuvered to regulate bikeshare companies’ operations.
Ofo’s reaction was to pull out of a number of cities including Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Seattle, and Washington, DC. It’s also shuttering operations abroad.
In a July statement to the media, Ofo’s Texas general manager Everett Weiler suggested regulatory barriers were the cause of its withdrawal: “As we continue to bring bikeshare to communities across the globe, Ofo has begun to reevaluate markets that present obstacles to new, green transit solutions, and prioritize growth in viable markets that support alternative transportation and allow us to continue to serve our customers.”
That’s a thinly veiled accusation that cities aren’t concerned about the environment. In truth, it’s the bikeshare companies that are unsustainable.