Dockless bike share company ofo launches in Norwich

Launch of ofo bikes in Norwich. Operations manager, Joseph Seal-Driver.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Launch of ofo bikes in Norwich. Operations manager, Joseph Seal-Driver. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of yellow bikes have been scattered across Norwich as the first ever dockless bike share company arrives in the city.

Launch of ofo bikes in Norwich. Operations manager, Joseph Seal-Driver, with reporter Jake Massey.
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Launch of ofo bikes in Norwich. Operations manager, Joseph Seal-Driver, with reporter Jake Massey. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

oFo already operates in 180 cities across the world, with Norwich becoming the fourth city in the UK to host the company.

The dockless nature of the bikes means they do not have to be picked up from or returned to specified docking stations, enabling riders to park bikes wherever it is legal to do so.

Riders begin by downloading the free ofo app on their smartphone. From here, users are able to locate bikes near them on the app's map. Having located a bike, riders can unlock it by scanning the QR code, which releases the lock via bluetooth. At this point, the users ride has begun and it will be timed until the bike is locked once again. The app automatically processes payments, and rides are charged at 50p per 30 minutes, although the service will be free for the next two weeks.

Thus far, 200 bikes have been distributed across the city, however, this figure is planned to grow beyond 350 bikes over the coming weeks.

Launch of ofo bikes in Norwich.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Launch of ofo bikes in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant


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The service operates within an ergonomically tailored 'geofenced' area around the city, which is viewable on the app, and encompasses the likes of UEA, NNUH and the John Innes Centre. Bikes can be parked outside the geofence but must be returned within 12 hours.

In order to prevent users from contravening the terms of use, oFo employs a rating system, whereby customers are allocated 100 points upon donwloading the app. Illicit behaviour such as vandalisation or incorrect parking of bikes can incur a points deduction, and users with zero points are banned from the service.

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Joseph Seal-Driver, UK operations manager at oFo, was pleased with the company's launch in Norwich.

He said: 'We're really happy with the reception we've had here, not just from the city and county council, but also from the organisations who came to our launch event and even passers-by. Everybody seems to know about our bikes and there's been a lot of interest, so we think we're off to a really good start.

Launch of ofo bikes in Norwich. Reporter Jake Massey riding one of the bikes.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Launch of ofo bikes in Norwich. Reporter Jake Massey riding one of the bikes. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

'Norwich is a fantastic city with a thriving business and student community and it deserves a large bike sharing scheme, so we're very happy to be here - plus our colours match.'

Norwich ranked as one of the worst cities in the country for air pollution

oFo's launch comes as new figures released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveal that Norwich is one of the worst cities in the country in terms of air quality.

The WHO advises that air should not have in excess of 10 micrograms of fine sooty particles, smaller than 2.5 microns, per cubic metre of air.

The report found that the air in Norwich contains 13 micrograms of the particle, known as PM2.5, per cubic metre - equalling air pollution levels in Manchester.

Excessive levels of PM2.5 have been linked with a number of health risks, such as heart and lung disease.

Dr Toby Hillman, from the Royal College of Physicians, said: 'This is a really direct and tangible impact on UK health from the drivers of climate change, and taking action on air quality should be a priority.'

Of the 51 UK towns and cities listed in the report, only 7 did not exceed the WHO's safety threshold.

oFo fact file

• The bikes introduced in Norwich are the fourth generation model. They have three gears, adjustable seats, kickstands, front baskets, mudguards, puncture proof tires, a dynamo supported front light and a solar powered rear light.

• Users are not required to pay a deposit, but marshalls will be deployed throughout the city, tasked with ensuring bikes are used correctly and safely maintained.

• Actions that may accrue point deductions include: damaging bikes, parking a bike in a way that obstructs other road-users, keeping a bike in a private property. Those found to have stolen bikes or bike parts will be fined.

• Bikes cannot be reserved. Any locked bike becomes immediately accessible to other riders.

• Users can be charged a maximum of £5 per day.

• The bikes were dispersed around Norwich on trailers attached to electric bikes.

• oFo started as a student project in Beijing and now has a fleet of 10 million bikes.

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