The dockless bike sharing scheme Ofo has launched in Hackney this week - the first foray into London for this particular operator.
Following limited launches in Cambridge and Oxford, the global bike share giant has chosen Hackney - the London borough with the highest concentration of cyclists - to leave a number of geotagged bikes for anyone to use.
The beta launch will gather initial insights of usage patterns and operations, and over time the number of bikes will be increased, serving the whole borough.
Ofo says is working closely with Hackney Council, having revealed a ‘UK Charter’ that details safety specifications, community principles, responsible business practices and general service guidance.
This follows a debacle earlier this year in which a rival dockless scheme, oBike, was temporarily removed from the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, in order for a consultation to take place.
A council spokesman said: “We have concerns about the way they had been placed on the streets, and protecting the health and safety of people in the borough.
“Most had been left at right angles to the kerb, partially obstructing the footpath, and creating a potential hazard for pedestrians – particularly the disabled.”
An oBike spokesman said: "We're working with councils across London to ensure the roll-out is as smooth as possible, and that oBikes are positioned in places that are convenient for the public, but do not cause an unnecessary obstruction.
“Where councils ask us to move or reposition bikes, we will comply with those requests.”
Ofo recently unveiled an upgraded bike fleet, with a front basket, dynamo lights and solar-powered back lights.
Joseph Seal-Driver, Ofo’s UK Operations Director said: “We’re delighted to announce that Ofo is coming to Hackney, a borough famed for leading the way on cleaner, greener transport, with the highest cycling rates in the Capital. We hope Hackney residents will take our bikes for a test drive when they hit the streets on Thursday.
“We’re very proud to be working closely with such committed partners in Hackney Council. They have demonstrated the kind of innovative thinking that will help ease London’s perennial problems with congestion and pollution. We hope this partnership serves as an example for other boroughs and cities to follow suit and take positive steps toward re-shaping how we travel in cities.”
Hackney Councillor Feryal Demirci, Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods, Transport & Parks, said: “This new type of bike sharing has the potential to change the way in which London moves for the better, by providing affordable bike sharing to everyone in Hackney. Hackney Council is leading the way on sustainable transport and has the highest cycling levels in the capital, and we’ve been impressed by Ofo’s responsible approach to introducing the bike sharing model to London.
“The Santander bikes which have been very successful in London, 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.
“We are going to work with Ofo to make sure that users are given information on locations where they can park their bike in hot spot areas to prevent issues such as obstructing the footway and parking on busy narrow pavements. We want to make sure bikes are parked in the best locations and understand journey patterns to make sure bikes are properly distributed. That’s why we are pleased that Ofo have entered into a dialogue with us and committed to operational standards instead of just putting the bikes on the street and hoping for the best."
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.