Ofo comes to London: Bike-sharing platform wants to rival Santander Bikes
After a successful launch in Cambridge and Oxford, ofo’s bike-sharing platform is coming to London.
From Thursday 7 September, 200 bikes will be available in Hackney in what the company is calling “a beta launch to gather initial insights of usage patterns and operations”. Following this beta, ofo plans to increase the number of bikes in the borough and potentially expand to other regions.
Dubbed “Uber for bikes”, ofo originated in China and has spread to 34 Chinese cities since 2014 as well as expanding into the US and Singapore. The company raised more than £541 million in Series E financing round in July this year and, by the end of 2017, wants to have 20 million bikes on the road in 20 countries.
ofo launched in the UK in April in Cambridge. In August, the company expanded to Oxford. The company claims it has consulted with riders and the local community and recently upgraded its bike fleet, with a front basket, dynamo lights and solar-powered back lights.
How to use ofo
Similar to how Zipcar’s model works, ofo’s yellow bikes can be picked up and dropped off anywhere that bike parking is allowed.
You hire them through an app and prices start at 50p for 30 minutes, no deposit needed.
By comparison, Santander Bikes are available in 750 docking stations across London (with around 11,500 bikes in circulation) but you need to pay a £2 access fee per day. The first 30 minutes is free and each additional 30 minutes is £2. You can also become a member and use bikes all year for a one-off fee of £90.
To find and access a bike, download the ofo app and unlock your nearest bike via Bluetooth. Once you arrive at your destination, park the bike and close the lock to signify your ride is over. Closing the lock makes it appear on the app and shows other riders that it’s available for use.
You can only ride the bike within a designated “Home Zone”, and this means ofo bikes can’t be picked up or dropped off outside of Hackney during the London trial. This zone is marked on the app when you access a bike.
The chances of a bike being stolen are slim because the rider needs to input personal details, as well as payment details. However, to help customers, ofo has a team of “marshals” who will be around to answer questions and make sure bikes are parked “responsibly.”
These marshals will work with the council to make sure riders get information on locations where they can park their bike, as well as making sure bikes are parked in the best locations and people understand journey patterns to make sure bikes are properly distributed.
“This new type of bike sharing has the potential to change the way in which London moves,” said Hackney councillor Feryal Demirci. “The Santander bikes have not expanded as far as we would have liked. We are therefore really excited about ofo’s potential to make cycling available to all our communities in Hackney and service a wider area, beyond central London, in a way that other providers have yet to achieve.”