Anyone walking around Sydney over the last month has seen those new ride-sharing bicycles — the yellow and red bikes from Reddy Go and Obike. You can't avoid them. They're literally everywhere. Scattered across footpaths and left against telephone poles and propped up in any corner you dare to look.
And now there's another one.
Ofo is the third major bike-sharing app launching in Sydney and around Australia, and it's doing so more carefully — it says, at least. Ofo wants to launch in Sydney "the right way", a subtle jab at the chaotic dispersal of the other yellow bikes around the place.
Scott Walker, Ofo's head of strategy, is big on differentiating the app from its competitors: "We are committed to working with local councils, government and cycling stakeholders to provide a bike share scheme which truly works for each city. ofo launched in Adelaide with the first government licence awarded to any operator. Now we are launching in Sydney with the endorsement of the cycling peak body. ofo’s future in Australia is looking bright."
Interestingly, the biggest difference that Ofo brings to the table is the fact that a "well-resourced" local operations team in Sydney will keep the fleet in line — making sure bikes are distributed appropriately, always have a helmet attached, and are parked properly. There are preferred parking zones, too, pointing users to the best place to park.
Ofo bikes are $1 per 30 minutes, with a maximum cap of $5 per ride and no deposit or membership fee. There's a 24/7 contact number on all bikes — for non-riders to complain about parking, presumably — and the app can also be used to report faulty bikes or helmets. An upcoming credit system rewards riders that use their bikes properly and punishes those that don't.
The app started in Australia in Adelaide with 50 and then 100 bikes, and will debut in Sydney with 200 bikes in the City of Sydney and then 200 more in each of Waverley and the Inner West. Crucially, the bikes' operating zone will be geofenced.
A mate told me a story over the weekend of when, walking home from the city after a night out, he saw some youths along the Glebe foreshore pushing rental bikes into the water. Not picking them up and moving them and throwing them, though — just pushing bikes, parked along the foreshore walk, directly into the bay there. Pretty funny, but also not without precedent.
And I can get why they were doing that, because they're bloody annoying, but also because there's no incentive — carrot or stick — for riders to leave them parked in any kind of dedicated zone. I don't mean to be a crotchety old man about this, but I'm thinking we seriously do need some kind of restrictions, or at least guidelines, on where all these rental bikes can be parked.
Here's some photos of Ofo users looking happy and attractive as they cycle around Sydney. Enjoy. [Ofo]