Boris Bikes, sorry ‘Sadiq Cycles’, aren’t the only cycle scheme in London. Several boroughs have had ‘dockless’ cycle rental firms such as ‘ofo’ testing their own schemes, and while there have been problems in the pilot schemes, it seems that some of them see a lucrative market in the metropolitan area…
Who are ofo?
Ofo was founded in Beijing by a group of entrepreneurs led by CEO Zhang Yanqi in 2014. The dockless cycle rental scheme exploded in use, and the company already has eight million bikes in 170 cities around the world.
If you visit Hackney you will likely see their yellow ‘sit up and beg’ bikes. This is a pilot project run in conjunction with the borough of Hackney, and while there have been some problems the Chinese firm says that they are ready to expand to other boroughs.
How ofo bikes work
If you want to ride an ofo bike you first register your credit / debit car details on a smartphone app. You then choose a bike and locate it. The phone then beams a signal via Bluetooth to the bike and unlocks it. You are charged £0.50 a half hour for your ride.
Ofo is far cheaper for the user than the Boris Bike scheme, and has the potential to do very well. It’s the cheapest form of transport in London that doesn’t involve walking…
Problems seen and envisaged…
One of the problems observed in China is that bikes get dumped in piles outside of train stations in the evening and then dumped outside of workers’ places of employment in the morning. By ‘dumped’, we mean unsightly and dangerous piles of the things that are respected much as a dog does a lamp post by their users.
The bikes are GPS tracked. Ofo have done a deal with Hackney whereby those who repeatedly misuse or park their bikes ‘incorrectly’ can be chucked off the scheme. Even if it really takes off and multiple firms flood the market, there will only be so many dockless bike schemes like this to be chucked out of!
Kids seem to have either hacked the bikes or found other ways of taking them away and abusing them. While there have been complaints from ofo users that they often find them trashed, it seems that it hasn’t caused ofo a significant problem in that despite making little or no money on the pilot, the firm is making plans to go live across London soon.
Other dockless bike schemes
While ofo and one or two other firms have done well with their partner councils, not all have. oBike had 130 bikes seized by Wandsworth Council after they didn’t police how the machines were parked, causing obstructions on the pavements. Mobike had 50 of their machines vandalised in Manchester and Salford.
If the dockless bike schemes are well policed by their owners they will be a very good way of getting people out of their cars and onto their bikes in London. The companies involved all seem to think they can drive cars off the roads in making their bikes available. That is no bad thing at all…