How to rent a public bike in Beijing

Wheel around Beijing on the cheap

Like many other major cities, Beijing has public rental bicycles available for hire.

Public bikes are handy for zipping around the city if you're here for a visit or just don't fancy having to work out what to do with your bike at the end of a night out.

They're also a cheap way to get around. Beijing rental bikes are free for the first hour, then charge 1RMB per hour (starting from the second hour) the maximum fee in a day is just 10RMB. This is all taken off your subway card.

To rent them you'll need to register your subway IC card using your passport and leave a 400RMB deposit. Here's how to do it step by step.

1. Grab these essentials

To register, you'll need:

- Your passport (or Chinese ID card, but since you're reading this we'll assume you don't have one)
- 400RMB for the deposit
- An IC card with an least 30RMB on it and a little C in the top right corner (all cards issued over the past few years should have this)

2. Head to a bike registration office

First, off you'll need to find a registration office.

There are many around the city but perhaps the most easily accessible are Dongzhimen subway station (exit A of of Line 2), Temple of Heaven subway station of (exit A of Line 5, next to the temple's east gate) and Chaoyangmen station (exit A of Line 2).

You're not looking for anything fancy, just a small office that could be mistaken for a garden shed. Like this one outside Chaoyangmen:

CYM bike office

Offices opening hours do vary, but they generally start in the morning around 9am until midday and then reopen at 1pm until 6pm. The Dongzhimen office opens between 9.30-11.30am and then 1.30-4.30pm everyday except Saturday, and Chaoyangmen is open everyday from 9am-12pm and then reopens at 1-6pm.

3. Fill out this form

Ok, now it's time to grab a registration form and fill it in.

If your Chinese is at the mainly pointing at things stage, look for a form like this to point at:

green form

Inside are two sections you need to fill in: one with some basic information; one agreeing to the bike's 'service contract', which is all in Chinese.

For the information form just fill out the starred sections, name, ID number passport number) and phone.

bike forms

Tick the 'agree' tickbox at the bottom and sign.

On the all Chinese form, sign where it says 甲方 (party A) at the top and after 甲方签字 (party A signature) at the bottom.

4. Stash your deposit slip

Give all your forms, your ID and your subway card to the people at the bike registration office and they'll give you a receipt for your deposit.

Don't lose it! You'll need it to get your cash back.

5. Get cycling!

The public bikes rental network now covers seven districts within Beijing: Dongcheng district, Xicheng district, Chaoyang district, Fengtai district, Shijingshan district, Shunyi district and Fangshan district.

As you can see below, that means that bikes are concentrated in east central area, convenient for the hutong areas around Gulou and Lama Temple as well as big attractions like Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven.

You'll also find them out in the suburbs at the far east and west ends of the Line 1 and right down at the bottom of Line 4.

bike overview

With 21,000 bikes for rent, a number that will increase to 50,000 in the near future, it's usually not too tricky to find a bike to rent.

Knowing where to return one can be another matter, however.

The service has a useful official map here (and on WeChat, follow the ID bjggzxc) showing the location of all the docking points and how many bike spots there are at each one but there's no real time map of free spaces, as there is in London and New York, so you'll just have to take your chances in terms of putting your bike back.

If you need some inspiration here are five great Beijing bike routes, most of which should be possible on public bikes.

Have fun – and don't forget to stay safe on your Beijing bike!

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