Chinese companies to fight 'bike wars' in UK

By ANGUS McNEICE | China Daily UK | Updated: 2017-04-07 17:28

China's famed "bike wars" may soon be fought on foreign shores, as Bluegogo and Mobike compete with fellow stand-free cycle hire company Ofo in the British market.

Chinese companies to fight 'bike wars' in UK

Ofo's yellow bikes, familiar in China, are coming to Cambridge. [China Daily] 

Cycle hire startups, so-called Uber for bikes, are big business in China. Around 30 companies control tens of thousands of bikes in at least 35 Chinese cities. The two largest, Ofo and Mobike, recently secured $450 million and $300 million in funding, respectively.

Already locked in a battle for market share across China, the startups now have London in their sights. Elsewhere in the UK this month, Beijing Bikelock Technology's bike hire business Ofo is launching a pilot bike-hiring scheme in Cambridge. Mobike is reportedly interested in launching similar projects in Birmingham and Manchester.

The Sunday Times recently reported Bluegogo and Mobike were looking at London.

Both London and Birmingham already have bike-hire schemes. The Chinese services differ in doing away with docking stations. Users of the bikes offered by the Chinese companies are free to pick up a cycle wherever they find one and leave it wherever they want, using a smartphone app and a code to deactivate and activate a built-in lock.

The capital's transport authority, Transport for London, has expressed interest in the new technology.

TfL's head of strategy and outcome planning, Lilli Matson, said: "We are always keen to talk to companies to explore advancements in technology and discuss new ideas, and have spoken with a number of companies, to understand their plans."

A spokesperson for Ofo said: "We have had brief discussions with TFL about how our scheme works in China and other markets and they are interested in hearing how our trial works in Cambridge. Our primary focus is ensuring the Cambridge trial is a success. We will potentially look to enter other areas later."

Ofo is rolling out 20 bikes in Cambridge. It will add more in due course. Located in the fl at Fenlands area, Cambridge is commonly referred to as the UK's unofficial "cycle city" because around 40 percent of local adults cycle at least three times a week, the highest rate of any British region. Ofo international PR lead Angela Cai said the company hopes its UK business will serve as a "gateway" to the rest of Europe.

But the city council has raised concerns about such schemes, after abandoned hire bikes were found in urban areas of China.

A statement sent to China Daily from Cambridge City Council reads: "Whilst we are keen to promote cycling … we also have some concerns about how public bike schemes, such as Ofo's, will work and how issues, such as poorly parked scheme bikes cluttering our streets and pavements and causing a nuisance and obstruction to pedestrians and other cyclists, will be managed."

The council also expressed "strong reservations" about Ofo's use of battery-powered lights, and recommended the company consider the pedal-powered variety.


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