Bike sharing is not a new idea, and how has it worked around world so far? In Seattle, the local public bike-sharing service Pronto is expecting to be shut down at the end of March, 2017. In fact, Pronto has not done a great job since its launch, the service is expensive and not enough stations and bikes are put in to support this program. The city government is redirecting its funds from this troubled bike-share program to improve the pedestrian infrastructure such as Safe Routes to School projects.
However, in China, a new trend is emerging in bike sharing industry. Ofo which is built up in 2014 is one of the biggest bike-sharing service providers based on the new internet technology. So what’s the new magic Ofo played to attract $450 million investment?
The most distinguished feature ofo is proposing is NO DOCKING STATIONS. It is very understandable why this concept has become inviting to new users. The traditional bike-sharing services require their users to go to one of their docking stations, to pick one bike. After finishing the trip, users need to find another docking station to lock the bike. Obviously, this service is not very convenient when you cannot easily find a docking station near your place of departure and destination.
Let’s see the instruction of Ofo provided, there are no docking stations which means so they are almost anywhere and you can find one on the street effortlessly. You will see a number on your bike, and you type in this number in the Ofo app on smartphone, you will obtain a password immediately. Then Dial the password in and unlock this bike and enjoy your trip. After finishing your trip, easily leave your bike in any area bike-parking is allowed, and it will become ready for the next user. Another service which rivals Ofo, Mobike uses scanning QR code to unlock their bikes. They are literally providing a bike-version Car-to-go service.
Another merit Ofo owns, is the price. The users in China pay 0.5 yuan ($0.07) per hour. Ofo also wants to expand their service in US, their expected plan is $0.5 per trip no matter how long it is. Compared to Pronto, you need to pay an initial $7.75 annual fee or $8 for 24-hour or $16 for 3-day to use its service. And these initial fees only provide unlimited trips under 30 minutes. They charge extra $2 when your trip exceeds 30 minutes, $7 when it exceeds 60 minutes.
Although the future of this new bike-sharing service seems bright, concerns emerge after its wide application in multiple cities in China. The first one is their targeting customer, Ofo was originally targeting the university students for their primary customers, however, their initial plan is too economical to sustain the maintenance of their bikes, they have to lift the price to the current number, and it is shown they has lost customers since the policy is adjusted. Another one is the insecurity of their bikes and unethical behavior of the users, quite amounts of thefts have been reported, and more and more users find their bikes damaged during their use.
This new kind of bike-sharing service undoubtedly offers a new ecological way to commute for users don’t own a car or users living in an area which public transit is less efficient. It is also convenient to use it to connect the public transit like rail and bus for a longer distance commute. However, the cooperate still needs to solve problems like the expensive maintenance, unethical behaviors or how to adapt their free-parking policy to the regulations under the department of transportation.
To know more about ofo’s business financing, please read:
One Startup Builds $1 Billion Business Out of 15-Cent Bike Rides
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