Ofo, the Beijing-based business often referred to as ‘Uber for Bikes’ has put its first bikes onto the streets of Cambridge, under a three-week trial.
If successful, more of the yellow bikes, which can be hired using an app – there are versions for iOS and Android devices – and which do not require a docking station will follow.
20 bicycles have been deployed in Cambridge under its initial trial, and the company says it will launch in other cities in the UK later this year.
Cambridge has been chosen specifically because it is the British city with the highest proportion of cyclists.
The business said that while the trial is underway, it will be developing a rollout plan working alongside residents of the city as well as the local authorities.
So how does it work? First, you find a bike that’s free and which has been left parked by the previous rider. Using the app, key in the bike number, which will give you an access code. Ride off and when you’re finished, park it, lock it, and leave it for the next person.
The first month is free and then costs from 50 pence for up to 30 minutes’ rental.
Ofo has sought to allay concerns about bikes being dumped around the city, saying that during the launch, it will have “an on-the-ground team ensuring the scheme runs smoothly, to ensure bikes are being parked responsibly as well as being on hand to answer any questions from users.”
The business was founded by graduates of Peking University, and launched its first bikes on the campus there in 2014.
Ofo’s growth since then has been astonishing. The business has 2.5 million bikes, with a total of 10 million rides undertaken every day, and 30 million active users.
Mainly targeting university campuses and cities with large student populations, Ofo has begun to expand internationally this year with launches in Singapore and San Francisco.
Claire Chen, head of Ofo UK, said: “The benefits of cycling are endless, from the numerous physical benefits to reducing the number of cars on the road and bringing down air pollution, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to get on two wheels.”
“The added benefit of our sharing scheme is that bikes can be used more effectively, with hundreds of potential users for each bike rather than just one.
“This will reduce the number of bikes needed by a city’s population. We strongly believe that by sharing more and owning less, we can collectively reduce our impact on the planet.
“We want to revolutionise how people view urban transport and position the bicycle as the best way to explore cities.
“Our non-docking system makes Ofo the most flexible and convenient way to get around urban areas, and our international user-base highlights how effective our model can be,” she added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.