China’s bike-sharing rivals are taking competition to a new level. Just witness this confrontation on Monday, when a Meituan Dianping worker in Hangzhou called the police and accused Hellobike employees of removing Meituan’s bikes from a street, according to a news video circulating on Chinese social media.
It all started when a Meituan worker said his coworkers saw strangers hauling more than 20 of their bikes onto a truck. He said Meituan bikes have been vanishing from the area recently, but the people removing the bikes first refused to identify themselves.
When police officers arrived on the scene, one of the men in the group said he works for Hellobike. He explained that he was simply told by his employer to clear any bikes that were blocking the road, regardless of who they belong to. He said he was about to move the bikes that he collected to a road in western Hangzhou, an area home to a number of science industrial parks and tech companies.
Zhejiang Television reports that under current rules, companies are responsible for clearing up their own bikes under the supervision of local authorities in Hangzhou.
Hellobike denies that it was illegally removing bikes. A representative told Abacus that the company carries out cleaning work in areas where it’s deemed responsible, in accordance with the “division of responsibilities” by local authorities.
(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, an investor in Hellobike.)
A Meituan representative confirmed to us that its staff reported the incident to the police and declined to comment further.
Shared bikes have been a headache for Chinese cities trying to clear up clogged sidewalks in the aftermath of a bubble. Last year, Beijing found that more than 955,000 “zombie” bikes were lying around the city unused. Authorities in the capital city have since ordered bike-sharing firms to collect damaged bikes and remove any that are blocking traffic. Other cities have followed suit, including Hangzhou.
This article first appeared in Abacus News.