On-Demand bike sharing apps: What goes in building apps like Ofo, Mobike and Spin?

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Bike sharing is a service where bikes are made available for sharing for a short period. The bike sharing services are either free or users have to pay a specific fee to use the bikes. In bike sharing model, the bikes available for sharing are parked in docks that are specially designed for the purpose. People who want to borrow bikes need to go to these docks, show the payment information to unlock the bike and ride away. They need to return the bike to the dock in the destination area. The docks are generally owned by the same company that offers bike sharing services.


The popularity of bike sharing services

Public use of bicycles is popular in countries like China, Japan, Italy, United States, Germany, Spain, and many others. China alone has 430 bike sharing programs. The bike sharing service is increasingly becoming popular due to many reasons. One of the reason is cities are becoming more congested and several cities are struggling with the menace of pollution due to a large number of cars on the road.


Last mile connectivity is often a big problem in big cities. This is where bike sharing services come into the picture. Bikes need very less space for parking and most of them are either battery operated or people need to use their physical strength to move ahead. The bike sharing services are popular in metro cities to reduce congestion and pollution.


The public use of bicycles has increased by three times between the year 2013 and 2016. If you look at the global figures, there are around 2.3 million bikes available for public use and out of these around 1.9 million bikes are located in China. The bike sharing services are evolving with time and the new changes come in the way of parking these bikes. Many bike sharing services allow the user to park their bike wherever their journey ends.


The popularity of bike sharing programs is on rise in the United States. Around 35 million bike trips were taken in 2017 which 25% more than 2016. If you look at cumulative figures, around 120 million bike trips were taken in different cities of the US since 2010.


World’s top bike sharing programs and apps


Hangzhou Public Bicycle

The city of Hangzhou, China has the largest bike sharing program in the world.The bike sharing program is owned by the Hangzhou Public Transport Corporation which is a government-funded organization. The bike sharing program is a part of the public transit system to support the city’s population that is around 7 million. Hangzhou Public Bicycle has around 66,500 and 78,000 bicycles parked at 2700 stations spread across the city. The bike sharing program started in 2008 and it has seen explosive expansion since its inception. The company predicts to operate around 175,000 bikes by 2020 which is a huge increase. An app was introduced in 2010 which showed the users the number of bikes available at each station.



Initiated in 2014, the Ofo bike sharing app has become popular in urban commuters. Ofo is built on an innovative business model that is a combination of smart appliances and sharing economy. Ofo is the first bike-sharing service that has implemented a non-docking bike renting system. Today, Ofo is one of the popular bike-sharing apps with more than 5 million registered users. The company connects you to more than 300,000 bikes and offers 50 million rides in 24 cities in China. Ofo is expected to launch its bike-sharing services in Singapore, the US, and the UK.


World’s top bike sharing Programs and Apps



Just like Ofo, Mobike is also a station less bikes sharing service headquartered in Beijing. The company provides bikes on rent for short trips and you can pick them and park them from any legal destination. The company operates more than 8 million bikes for its 200 million registered users. The Mobike bike-sharing service is available in 18 countries and Mobike has around 8.65 million DAU (daily active users)



Based in San Francisco, California, Spin is a popular bike sharing service in the United States. The company operates a dock-less bike sharing system which allows the users to rent bikes through a mobile app. Founded in 2016, the Spin bike-sharing service is relatively new. The company started its service with 500 cycles in Seattle and the company registered 5000 rides in the first week of starting the business. Spin offers a three-speed bicycle that is equipped with cellular modems and GPS.


How do bike sharing apps work?

The dockless bike sharing system is on the rise mainly due to the scarcity of space in metropolitan areas. The bike sharing works with starting the bike-sharing app on your smartphone. The location feature of the smartphone needs to be active for the bike sharing app to work perfectly. Depending on your location, the bike sharing app shows the availability of bikes in the area available for sharing. The app shows the location of the bike. You can either select the bike in the app or walk to its location and then unlock it for your use. When you reach near the bike, you are required to scan the QR code on the bike using your bike sharing app and you will receive a four-digit code to unlock the bike. Enter the code in the specially-fitted lock that is located at the rear wheel of the bike. Once the bike is unlocked, the user can start his/her journey.


Since these bike sharing services follow a model of dockless bike sharing, the user has the freedom to park the bike anywhere in the designated area at the destination. When the user finishes the journey, he/she has to park the bike on its side-stand and lock the bike. The online wallet of the user is automatically charged. The dockless bike sharing services are generally geo-fenced which means you can use these bikes in designated areas.


Main features in bike sharing apps


Find bike near you

This is the most important feature of any bike sharing app that exists today. The bike sharing app allows people to find a bike in a nearby location so that they do not have to go far to rent a bike. The bike riding app tracks the location of the user through GPS and shows the bike location on the map that is available for rent. You cannot imagine the bike-sharing app to succeed without this feature.


Get unlock code through bike number

The bike sharing app has a QR code scanner that is used to scan the code on the bike. Every sharing bike has a unique code number. The user has to activate the QR code scanner in the bike sharing app to scan the code on the bike. When the user completes this action, the user gets a code that is used to open the lock fitted near the rear wheel of the bike.


Get unlock code through bike number


Make payment

This is the third most important feature of the bike sharing app. It allows the user to pay for the trip in an easy way. No matter what type of bike sharing app you have, it needs to support popular payment options for hassle-free payment.


Make payment


Check trip details

We live in an information-centric world and the users may feel the need to know the trip details to ensure they are charged a reasonable fee for renting the bike. The leading bike sharing app has the trip details feature where the users can know the time of renting the bike, distance traveled and other details of the trip.


Check trip details


Though the above features are more than enough to make the bike-sharing app successful, here are some features which can make your bike sharing app stand out.


Desired features that can make your bike sharing app successful


Reserve bike in advance

Looking at the popularity and convenience offered by the bike sharing service, situations can arise when the number of users wanting to rent the bike exceeds the number of available bikes in a particular location. It will be a very negative user experience to walk to the location of the bike and only see it is not available for rent. This will only waste the user’s time. A good solution to this problem is allowing the user to reserve a bike in advance.


Faster process

The bike sharing app needs to have the ability to scan the code on the bike in seconds and the user need not face any problems or delays in receiving the unlock code. Time plays an important role in good user experience and your company needs to do everything to make the process faster.


Secure Payment options

Payment is an important part of the bike sharing service.It is necessary the users are able to complete the payment in 1-2 taps in the app. The app needs to support storing of debit/credit card information for easy payments. The bike sharing service needs to follow industry standards to secure financial data of the user. Also, the app needs to automatically apply any discount coupons available to the user.


Customer service

Though technology is expected to make things simpler, technical glitches come announced and mar the user experience. Offering a dedicated customer service number to resolve queries and complaints will prove helpful for the users.It is a good idea to have a live chat option which can be useful to resolve customer’s problems with payment, renting or any other issues related to bike use.


Concluding note

Rolling out a bike sharing app is a necessity once the bike sharing system is in place. It is another story that profitability for bike sharing platforms is a challenge. The convenience, affordability, and low-carbon footprint commute is expected to make bike sharing service animportant element of the public transit system. A well-designed bike sharing app can help the bike sharing service reach a large audience and attain huge success in a short period. A large number of users like bike sharing apps as they solve the last mile problem. This can be one of the encouraging factors to build your own bike sharing app.

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Rahul Singh

Sr. App Developer

Rahul has been associated with the apps industry for more than 9 years now. He has seen the apps economy grow from its nascent days to a full fledged industry with its complete ecosystem as of today. His interest lies in pursuing and getting to know the best app development technologies, processes and platforms. He is truly an app enthusiast. In his free time he loves playing console games and reading history.

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