Awesome Chinese Public Bikes

Word of the Week: sǎo

If you are in China or ever plan to visit China you absolutely need to check out these public bikes. In big cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou they are now everywhere and all you need to do whip out your smart phone and sǎo the QR code. In this context sǎo 扫 just means “scan”.


By far the biggest social networking app in China is wēi xìn 微信 (WeChat) and in the past you would usually add someone by searching their phone number or username. However, things have changed and now the most popular way is to just sǎo their QR code.

jiā wǒ de wēi xìn ba (add my WeChat)

hǎo de, wǒ sǎo nǐ (okay, I’ll scan you)

But let’s get back to those awesome public bikes. After you sǎo the QR code they unlock automatically and you can ride them around for about 1RMB an hour. There are a few different types or brands of bike and they seem to vary a bit depending on the city. There is one type that doesn’t unlock automatically, you have to sǎo and then get a code to manually unlock the bike.

If you want to scan a document onto a computer then the verb in Chinese is also sǎo but in this context you normally can’t just use sǎo on its own, you need to say sǎo miáo 扫描

néng bù néng bāng wǒ sǎo miáo wǒ de hù zhào 能不能帮我扫描我的护照 can you help me scan my passport?