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It’s been a year since those distinctive yellow bikes arrived – but what’s been the impact of Ofo in Cambridge?

Ofo are the first to admit that their dockless cycling scheme, which launched a year ago yesterday (..

By admin , in Cambridge , at April 21, 2018

Ofo are the first to admit that their dockless cycling scheme, which launched a year ago yesterday (April 19), has not had the smoothest of births.

The company which runs the bike-sharing app admits that they got off on the wrong foot when they first arrived in Cambridge.

Ofo arrived in Cambridge in April 2017

However, despite early teething problems, the bikes have won over Cambridge City Council and members of the public, and ofo could be joined by more dockless bike companies in Cambridge soon.

Those companies will have the advantage of the city councils code of conduct, which sets out guidelines for companies offering dockless bike services, whereas ofo had to play all of it by ear from the trial phase, through to implementation.

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An embodiment of the saying the first guy through the wall always gets bloody.

Theyll also have the benefit of Cambridge residents seeing dockless bikes as the norm, rather than a gimmick or curiosity.

Potential ofo competitors

Mobike: Fellow Chinese company Mobike operates in over 200 cities worldwide. However it encountered similar teething problems when launched in Manchester last June (2017). Mobike even had to temporarily suspend their service in Stockport after just 11 days in order to protect bikes and staff. Mobike is also 19 pence more expensive than ofo, and requires a one pound deposit.

Limebike: The California-based company has only started to expand into Europe, with German cities Frankfurt and Bremen being the first European adaptors. This means any Limebike expansion into Cambridge would be further down the road. Although their current partnerships with university campuses in America promises much for a university city.

Urbo: Irish-based Urbo requires riders to subscribe to a membership scheme of £30 per year. The company also requires people to dock the bikes at designated parking areas or public cycling racks. This means that Urbo has managed to avoid a lot of the problems it's competitors face, although this comes at a premium for users.

The 'Uber of cycling'?

Having been christened the Uber of cycling before being brought into the city, its probable that the scheme would have been treated in a similar taken for granted fashion.

Within weeks of its official launch in August, stories came pouring in of bikes being stolen, vandalised, or left abandoned, the starkest of examples coming when footage emerged this week of two vandals attempting to smash a ofo bike up with rocks.

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Last August (2017) Luke, a lorry driver from Abbey Ward said he saw the new rental bikes abandoned on a regular basis, and called for something to be done.

He also compared ofo to the green bike rental scheme trialed in Cambridge in the 1990s, which had to be abandoned when most of the bikes went missing.

He said: "I'm a lorry driver and I see the bikes dumped around Cambridge all the time. It's just like the old green bikes.

Lorry driver Luke took a picture of this abandoned Ofo bike near Abbey swimming pool in Cambridge today (August 29)

"There has been one in Cherry Hinton by Fishers Lane for approximately four days just chucked on the floor.

"Something definitely needs to be done – it looks messy.

Police involvement

That was not the only instance however where Cambridgeshire Constabulary had to deal with an ofo-related incident.

In November 2017, an ofo bike was pimped up with its tires spray painted luminous green. The bike was one of 15 handed to Cambridgeshire Constabulary since October 2017.

An ofo bike which is being stored at Cambridge police station after being found vandalised or customised

While the app comes with recommended parking areas, it doesnt enforce people using them, which has lead to cases of the bikes being left in ponds and brambles.

Confusion also prevailed last September, over whether the bikes should be locked in cycle rails.

Controversy reigned when marshals added their own lock to the locks added by users, rendering the bike useless.

Putting a lock on your ofo bike will leave you bikeless (Image: Twitter @RTaylorUK)

Ofo said at the time it was done to retain the spirit of the shared use aspect of the scheme.

Marks out of 100

September continued to be a controversial month for the company, as users started to discover that they were being marked out of 100 based off their conduct, with a reduction to zero resulting in a ban from the service.

Again, this is not a bad idea, the implementation of it was the problem, as users remained blissfully unaware of the score, and the fact that users were obliged to report damage on the bikes, or face a points deduction.

Ofo bikes are an increasingly common sight in Cambridge

One customer at the time, who did not want to be named, said: "I use ofo pretty regularly and I had no idea they were rating me behind my back."

However ofos initial issues have not dented its popularity, and negative incidents have declined in recent months.

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Nationwide, customers have ridden nearly 760,000km in ofos first year in the UK, spending over 160,000 hours in the saddle, and the bike have become a regular fixture on Cambridge roads.

Tracking our data?

Thats a lot of time spent on ofo bikes, and distance traveled, and with ofo using GPS data to monitor the location of their bicycles, it begs the question, where does all this data go?

Ofo riders in Cambridge

Former White House cybersecurity Anthony Ferrante spoke to citylab last year, saying: “Based on that data, you could look to see where I am and where Im going,”.

There is no suggestion or knowledge that ofo or any other bike sharing company has been using this data unethically, but in a time where data protection is in the spotlight thanks to Cambridge Analytica, and people are asking questions about what companies know about their users.

It could point to a possible future problem ofo has not just in Cambridge, but across its entire network.

Let us know what you think of the scheme so far

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