Ofo, China’s leading bike rental company, announced October 10 its launch in Washington, D.C., following Seattle and Massachusetts.
The fast-expanding firm will deploy 400 of its yellow bikes over the course of its first week, as the local government only allows 400 bikes on the streets during the “demonstration stage.” The local regulator appears to be extra cautious with the bike number, especially when ofo’s rival Mobike also launched in the same city last month.
“The US government is taking a more careful approach,” Grace Lin, Vice President of ofo US, told TechNode during a phone interview. “[The local government] want to make sure the dock-less operators can be a major part of the city instead of bringing in something they can’t control,” she said.
Users in the US capital can now download the ofo app to locate nearby bikes, scan the QR code to unlock, and will be charged $1 for each one-hour ride.
“I believe we’re changing their way of transportation here,” said Lin, adding that the company’s operation in Seattle starting about two months ago has seen some positive feedback and has deployed about 2,000 bikes in the city. “We’ve seen so many adoptions. It’s very encouraging for us.”
“We anticipate that in all major cities and some smaller cities, dockless bike share will be one of their [the locals] major transportation methods,” said Lin. “I believe it’ll happen just in a year. We will try to make it happen.”
While ofo’s operation in China has been widely criticized for its vandalism issues and the uncontrollable amount of broken bikes, it may be a different story for the company’s US expansion.
“I don’t believe anything like this [vandalism] will happen in the United States,” said Lin. “For the US market, we will not start with a lot of bicycles, although each city will end up with a reasonable amount of bicycles to make the service convenient enough for users,” she said.
“The US is not a market where quantity is the most important thing,” said Lin.
Founded in 2014, ofo now operates in over 180 cities across 15 countries and generates more than 25 million daily transactions. Washington, D.C. marks the startup’s fourth official city in North America, in addition to Seattle, Washington; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Revere, Massachusetts. The company plans to expand to Aurora, Colorado and some more cities in Massachusetts within the month.