The Rise & Fall of OFO

In Bicycle by RUNINdc

Ofo came to DC in October on the heels of a massive dockless bike experiment that swept the Nation’s Capital and many cities throughout America.

OFO Launch in DC. Photo by Joe Flood

The Chinese bike sharing company brought 400 bikes into the city and fought hard to get local municipalities to ease restrictions. The trial period ended in August with Ofo and a half a dozen bike sharing companies in the city facing many challenges and obstacles.

Though the dockless bikes developed a strong fan base from commuters and tourists alike (they were built rugged, ergonomically designed, featured solar-powered lights and has three speeds to climb hills), they received a bad rap from citizens and local officials for becoming sidewalk litter and a hazard to pedestrians — especially those with affected mobility. Ironically, the key appeal to bike shares is the main cause for their concern

Been dockless, the bikes were easily stolen, vandalized and hacked.  Many bikes ended up in the bottom of the Anacostia River or piled up in a landfills.

Discarded bikes pile up in Beijing. (ABC News. Bill Birtles)

Due to many unsurmountable challenges, Ofo decided to scale back in the US and is the first dockless bike share company to pull out of DC.

After Ofo’s departure, the following dockless bikes are still operating in the city: China-based Mobike and U.S. start-ups Spin, LimeBike and electric-bike company Jump. LimeBike, Bird and Skip provide scooters.

To prevent the bikes from ending up in landfills, VéloCity  Bicycle Co-op co-founder Christian Myers contacted Ofo and asked for their surplus bikes. What they got was 170 brand new bikes, still in boxes and requiring assembly before sale.

VéloCity held the bike sale at their warehouse in Alexandria today with over 300 people showing up for 170 bikes — some buyers left with two, many left empty handed.  Prior to sale, they had to remove the Bluetooth/3G Smart Lock. Used bikes sold for $100. New, mint condition bikes out of the box sold for $350.

Ofo bicycles feature:
– 26″ airless tires that never deflate
– Strong, durable, and light aluminum body
– Front and rear lights that turn on automatically, and don’t need batteries
– Front basket for light hauling
– Fenders for those rainy days
– Built-in bell to let people know you’re coming
– Adjustable seat for quick, easy bike sharing
– Low frame for mounting/dismounting in any attire
– Shimano Nexus 3 speeds with front and rear drum brakes to help with the hills around town

From Christian Myers: VéloCity :

Thanks to all who came out to our sale today and sorry for those who were not able to get a bicycle. We were unable to determine how many people would be attending the event and didn’t expect this many people. Thanks for coming out and supporting us. The sale of these bicycles will go a long way to ensuring Velocity can continue to provide a needed service to our community. We usually have quarterly sales out of our warehouse where we sell as-is bicycles. Feel free to follow us on facebook if that’s something that interests you. We don’t have lines for our warehouse sales