China’s bike sharing bubble has burst, and some users have decided that they don’t want to wait to get their deposits back.

Photo: Reuters

Bike sharing in China is really more like bike rental -- users aren’t sharing their own bicycles, they’re borrowing bikes owned by a company. Each ride only costs a few cents, but users need to pay deposits that vary from about US$15 to US$50. Over 40 bike-sharing startups appeared in the past year, but only a handful still exist.

According to Chinese media, shared bikes were spotted for sale on Xianyu, an Alibaba-owned site that specialises in used products. (Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

Among the listings on Xianyu are bikes from Kuqi and Bluegogo, two of the bike sharing startups that went bankrupt in late 2017 and failed to return deposits to millions of users. One of the sellers listed a Kuqi Bike for 60 yuan (US$9), saying in the description that “there is no hope in getting back my 298 yuan (US$46) deposit, and I’m selling the permanent right to use this bike.”

The item was later deleted. When we contacted him to ask why, the seller said he wants to avoid any misunderstanding from people -- but didn’t clarify what kind of misunderstanding.

One thing is clear: When asked if he took the bike from the street, he replied “yes.”