Another San Diego influence-peddler has entered the fray over the controversial case for so-called dockless bike rentals, picking up a Beijing-based client by the name of ofo (lower case intentional). The outfit is seeking “permission to initiate bike sharing within City limits,” per a December 19 disclosure by California Strategies.
“Ofo began in 2014 when CEO David Dai and his co-founding partners saw an opportunity to leverage smart technology to improve cycling as a sustainable mode of transportation,” says the company’s website. “As students at Peking University, David and his partners convinced about 2000 students to add their bicycles to a private registry. The registry could be accessed through a mobile app and allowed participants to use any registered bike, anywhere, at any time.” The company says it currently controls “10 million bicycles in operation globally.”
But the Chinese bike-sharing boom has spawned its share of horror stories. “Yang Fengchun, an associate professor at Peking University’s school of government, said piles of bikes dumped outside subway stations were now a common sight because many city planners had never thought to include parking facilities nearby,” according to the South China Morning Post. Of 983 ofo bikes inspected by a citizens group in six major Chinese cities, per the paper’s account, “19 percent were damaged, 15 percent were unlocked, 12 percent had been stolen for private use, and 2 percent were being ridden by children under the age of 12.” In March, “an 11-year-old boy died at a crossroads in central Shanghai after a coach ran over the ofo bike he was riding, sparking public debate about who should be held responsible for such accidents.” A Guangzhou resident added that “many bikes had been dumped in alleyways, ‘essentially becoming city trash.’”
In addition to ofo, two other dockless bike operations, Spin and LimeBike, are actively lobbying to open their doors here. Meanwhile back in China, chronic financial losses have spawned talk of consolidation among the big biking players, including ofo and competitor Mobike. “Each has raised over $1 billion since late last year in a cash war to expand market share at home and overseas,” the Independent reported in July.