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World’s biggest bike-share company Ofo to bring hundreds more bikes to Sydney

Sydney Morning Herald, 24 October 2017
The world’s biggest bike sharing company will put hundreds of yellow bikes on Sydney streets from Wednesday evening, undeterred by controversy over bikes cluttering public spaces. Chinese company Ofo, which has 10 million bikes in 18 countries, will distribute 200 bikes around the City of Sydney, ready for the Thursday morning commuter rush.

Another 200 will be placed in the Waverley Council area next week, followed by 200 in the Inner West.

The company is launching in Sydney amid controversy over whether the thousands of share bikes already on the street are a nuisance when they are discarded by riders, or pranksters, in inconvenient places.

Ofo Australia head of strategy, Scott Walker, says Ofo will provide around 25 to 30 “preferred parking” zones in each council area, some of which have CCTV nearby so vandalism can be monitored.

A “geofence” on the bike will alert riders if they try to park a bike outside the Ofo operational zone, which in the city covers Martin Place, Ultimo, Surry Hills, Kings Cross, Redfern and Erskineville.

“There have been some challenges faced by other operators, but we are taking our time to do this right,” said Mr Walker.

Ofo has the support of Bicycles NSW, and the company is working with local councils, he said.

Ofo staff will collect the bikes daily and put them back in the preferred parking zones, which have been selected as likely hotspots for usage.

“Bike share in Sydney has a really good future,” he said, after meeting with the City of Sydney on Monday.

There are already 4000 dockless bikes in Sydney after ReddyGo, oBike and Airbike launched in the past three months, a City of Sydney spokesman said.

The city received 29 queries or complaints about bike share in three months.

In the same period, 60,000 people had downloaded a bike sharing app to their smartphone.

“Whilst we support the concept of bike share, we continue to stress our concerns about safety, redistribution of bikes and accessibility on footpaths, and have found operators to be responsive to public queries and complaints,” said the spokesman.

Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne, who also met with Ofo, said: “There are zealots in both the pro and anti bike brigades but what’s needed for bike share to succeed is common sense rules of the road.”

He said basic regulation was needed after bikes had been dumped in parks and up trees.”It is important that there be one simple set of rules across Sydney or we risk bike-share schemes, which can bring huge benefits, being strangled at birth.”

The City of Sydney said it was up to the NSW government to take the lead.

Randwick mayor Lindsay Shurey recently complained about bikes being “strewn across the suburbs” and left at beaches, and Randwick council has demanded operators provide secure parking.

Ofo Australia is headed by the company’s global chief executive, Dai Wei, 25, who created the first dockless share-bike scheme with his cycling club at Peking University in Beijing.

The company raised US$700 million ($895 million) from venture capitalists including Alibaba in July to expand internationally amid a race for market share with rival Chinese bike-share companies.

Cities in China have recently imposed rules on where the bikes can be parked, but continue to support share bikes as green transport.

A cap on new share bikes was imposed when Beijing reached 2.3 million bikes, and Shanghai peaked at 1.5 million.

In Waverley, Ofo parking zones will include Bondi Junction, Queens Park, Dover Heights and the beach suburbs of Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama.

Inner West suburbs to have Ofo parking will include include Annandale, Newtown, Balmain, Leichhardt, Marrickville, Summer Hill and Tempe.

Ofo bikes won’t require a deposit, and will cost $1 for 30-minutes.