Cycling campaigners in Cambridge fear that 500 bikes from Chinese start-up Ofo that are due to be rolled out in the city won’t have lights on them - and road.cc can confirm that is the case with bicycles from the ‘Uber for Bikes’ firm in Singapore, where it launched earlier this year.
Camcycle, the country's largest local cycling campaign group outside London, points out that if the bikes are not equipped with lights, then unless people carry their own, it will be illegal to use them in the hours of darkness.
In a statement emailed to road.cc by Camcycle committee member Al Storer, the group said: “In the existing Ofo schemes the bikes are not equipped with lights. It seems highly unlikely that people using a system like Ofo would happen to carry clip-on type lights with them.
“The London Santander Cycle Hire bikes have integrated lights powered by a dynamo that are always on when the bike is in use. As lights are a legal requirement on cycles in the hours of darkness, not fitting these bikes with lights would be irresponsible of Ofo.”
Camcycle has noted that “details of the exact bikes that Ofo will be deploying are hard to come by,” and that “their publicity materials simply show pictures of Ofo bikes that have been deployed elsewhere.”
We too at road.cc have had difficulty trying to find out further details, about them, but we did have a contact in Singapore take a look at the bikes there and she confirmed that while they did have reflectors, they lacked lights.
Ofo was launched at Beijing’s Peking University in 2015 and now claims 3 million users in China. It is beginning to expand internationally, with a focus on cities with large student populations.
Cambridge is therefore a natural choice for its first location in Europe, although it lacks the dedicated campus setting that many academic institutions around the world have.
As we reported last month Ofo plans to revolutionise the bike share business around the globe, a key element of its business model being that there is no need for a docking station - the user simply picks up a bicycle then leaves it when they arrive at their destination.
But that, too is a big concern for lCamcycle, who say the city is already suffering from a shortage of bike parking spaces.
“A well-planned bike-hire scheme could be very useful for Cambridge,” the group told road.cc.
“Whilst there are several good bike-hire shops in the city, they do have limited opening hours. A reliable bike-hire scheme available 24/7 would be a useful supplement to their services.
“Camcycle is however, concerned about the proposed Ofo scheme. Unlike schemes in London, Paris and many other cities, the Ofo system doesn’t use docking stations
“We fear this will put further pressure on the already problematic cycle-parking situation in the city centre.”
The group continued: "The Ofo bikes used in their existing schemes in Singapore and China have a very simple mechanical lock on the wheel. They are not locked to bike stands.
"This means that users can 'park' them anywhere. It leaves them open to theft and vandalism. We fear that vandals may pick up parked bikes and dump them where it will cause problems- for example in the river.
ICamcycle addot that it "cannot be supportive of a scheme that would cause more problems for people on bikes trying to park in the city centre, where bikes can be left anywhere such as in the middle of a disabled access route, and provides cycles without lights, which would be illegal to use the hours of darkness.
"The lighting issue and the vandalism issue may be dealt with for the cycles that will be specified for use in Cambridge; however Ofo are not sharing such details," . it added, clncluding, "The parking and obstruction issue will remain regardless."
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.