Cycling is known to be environmentally friendly and beneficial to public health and sustainable urban development. Cycling has recently increased in Chinese cities as a result of the emergence of station-less bike-sharing systems. This study examines the emergence, rapid growth and consolidation of station-less bike-sharing systems and the role of suppliers, users and government regulators. It shows that these systems developed unevenly, growing most in large cities in eastern and south-eastern China, and explores the relationship between this spatial distribution and the nature of the service and the socio-economic characteristics of cities. To investigate patterns of, and reasons for, the use of these systems, this research also reports the results of a survey of users and non-users, identifying their gender, age, income characteristics and attitudes to station-less systems.