Chinese bike-sharing startup Ofo trials in Cambridge ahead of European launch

Ofo says it has 30 million active users who have access to around two and a half million bright yellow bikes

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The Independent Online

A Chinese bike-sharing company that was launched by graduates of Peking University in 2014 and is now valued at over $2bn (£1.56bn) has started trialling its service in Cambridge - a first attempt at breaking into the competitive European market.

The roll-out in Cambridge on Thursday means that Ofo, named because the word itself resembles a bicycle, now operates in 81 cities around the world. According to its own data, it’s responsible for more than 10 million daily rides across its home market of China, as well as the US and Singapore.

The start-up said in March that it had raised $450m in its last round of funding and has been valued in excess of $2bn (£1.5bn). That easily grants it so-called ‘unicorn’ status, a term used to describe startups that reach a valuation of over $1bn. Since the 2014 take-off, Ofo bikes have been cycled more than 400 million times, the company says.

It says it has 30 million active users who have access to around two and a half million bright yellow bikes.

To use an Ofo-registered bike, cyclists download the smartphone app through which they receive a code to unlock any Ofo bike that happens to be nearby, curbing the need to find dock stations.

“We strongly believe that by sharing more and owning less, we can collectively reduce our impact on the planet”, says Claire Chen, head Ofo’s new UK branch.

The service is similar to the highly successful Santander Cycles scheme offered in London, where users can pay £2 for 24 hour of access to a bike after the first 30 free minutes.

That scheme operates more than 750 docking stations, and accounts for 11,000 bikes ridden round the capital, according to Transport for London.

Ofo cyclists will be able to rent the bikes for a minimum of 50p for 30 minutes.

The trial in Cambridge, a city known for its cyclists, will involve 20 bikes for three-weeks, after which the company says it plans to launch in other UK cities.

“Our non-docking system makes ofo the most flexible and convenient way to get around urban areas, and our international user-base highlights how effective our model can be”, says Ms Chen.