Mobikes or No Bikes?

Photo by Elayna Daniels ’21

By: Olivia Ng ’21

They’re iconic: the Mobikes of Davidson College. They are our saviors when we are late for class, meetings, or sports practice. They are the fastest way to F or to ride to the grocery store. They brighten up campus with their orange auras and can turn a long walk into an exhilarating ride. What would Davidson be like without Mobikes? Well, soon enough you may no longer have to imagine.

Mobikes are in danger. Last year, during the first week of the trial, 566 riders logged over 1,700 trips, and their popularity grew throughout the semester to around 1,400 users taking 13,000 rides. However, this year’s price jump has seemingly deterred riders from picking up a bike: only 40 students have purchased the monthly subscription and fewer students have been seen riding Mobikes around campus. But when and how did Mobike come to Davidson? Mobikes’ journey on Davidson’s campus began at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year when Jeffrey Peng ’21 was inspired by the bike sharing company in Shanghai and decided that he wanted to bring them to the US. Peng worked with team of students from his alma mater, the Asheville School, including Chris Amoroso ’21, and ShaSha Yan, a first-year student at Babson College, to create a business plan and proposal. By October 2017, they crafted and sent their proposal to Mobike and in January 2018, received a response [1].

Working with Yancey Fouché, Davidson College’s Director of Sustainability, Peng and Amoroso created Mobike’s first-ever partnership with a higher-education institution. In the agreements of the partnership, the initial trial period allowed users to have 20 free rides. Further negotiations between the Davidson team and Mobike gave students free rides for the remainder of the semester. Flash forward to fall 2018: Mobikes’ partnership is no longer a trial and offered a flash sale subscription for $5 per month (a great deal compared to their standard $15 per month subscription) from August 15 to 30, otherwise offering $1 per ride.*

According to Fouché, the problem is that Mobike no longer believes that it is able to continue its business on Davidson’s campus. The company’s revenue from Mobike users must be enough to pay employees to maintain the bikes and mobile app as well as routinely transport bikes between Davidson and Charlotte for repairs and move Mobikes to central locations on campus. Currently, based on the number of campus subscriptions and users, Mobike is making a little over $200 per month, not nearly enough to cover all costs. The current business model is no longer economically sustainable, and to avoid losing revenue, Mobike will remove its bikes from Davidson’s campus unless student subscriptions increase exponentially.

As for the terms of their removal, it is currently unknown whether Mobikes will remain on campus until current subscriptions have ended or if they will be removed on a given date and subscribers will be refunded. Mobike has also not informed Davidson about the number of additional subscriptions needed to be purchased to keep the bikes on campus. However, it is highly likely that without immediate extensive student support, Mobike will leave Davidson by the end of the fall semester.

This is our issue, not the administration’s issue. Mobike is a business that follows the principle of supply and demand. Mobike fills the demand for Davidson riders. But as of right now, Davidson is not demanding and Mobike is losing money by supplying us. So, what can you do to help?

If you use Mobike, get a subscription. Five dollars. A green day smoothie at Nummit. A cheese quesadilla at Union. An order of Chick-fil-A chicken minis. A cup of Whit’s custard. We all love these $5 treats. Is giving up just one of these once a month in exchange for a monthly Mobike subscription for the rest of the school year worth it? Mobike is a treat too. You may think that you won’t use more than one ride a month, so cashing out isn’t worth it.

Would you rather pay five dollars a month for the rest of the school year for a few Mobike rides, or pay a dollar here and there now but never ride a Mobike on Davidson’s campus ever again? Decide for yourself. This is our last chance to save the Mobikes. It is said that history repeats itself: Do we really want another Union Station demise? This time the issue is in our hands. Your support of Mobike is needed to rally a massive jump in subscriptions to keep them home on Davidson’s campus. Students worked incredibly hard, investing their precious time and energy to bring Mobikes to Davidson for you. Let’s not let their work go to waste.

 

*Following the publication of this article, Fouché will be working with Mobike to create another flash sale opportunity under the same conditions.

[1] https://www.davidson.edu/news/news-stories/180413-students-make-davidson-first-us-campus-with-mobike-bike-sharing 

 

Olivia Ng ‘21 is an undeclared students from Raleigh, North Carolina. Contact her at olng@davidson.edu

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