Last night, I came home and saw one stood in front of my Peckham flat. The other week, I spotted one sitting on Tower Bridge. I’ve seen them lurking around pretty much everywhere in Hackney.
I’m talking of course of the bright yellow ofo bikes.
ofo is the world’s first and largest dock-less bike sharing platform and has set off a trend with companies like Mobike closely following in its tyre marks. The bikes can be found in 250 cities across the world and are being rolled out in London. Although the bikes are currently based in Islington, Hackney and the City, cyclists can take and leave them anywhere in London – good news for Boris bike-deprived south Londoners who want to get around quicker without boarding a stuffy bus.
Dock-less bikes look to be a growing trend as Londoners work towards a greener and cleaner city, but what exactly is a dock-less bike and how do you use one?
I went to find out…
Downloading the app
A quick search and tap is all it takes to download the ofo app within minutes. It then asks for your email address and phone number, which I seem to give away without a second thought these days. You also have to input your bank card details – I’m a bit more reluctant to do this but it only takes a moment’s hesitation before I go ahead and submit them. And that’s it, I’m ready to go.
Finding a bike
The app takes you to a detailed map pinning your current GPS location and your nearest available ofo bikes. The pin was sensitive on the touch-screen and it moved around a lot when zooming in and out of the map, so I had to keep centring it back to my correct location. However, this is good for if you want to drop the pin in another location that you’re heading to and want to get a bike from.
I was surprised to find that the nearest bike was a fifteen-minute walk away. This is 2018 and I’m a millennial who expects instantaneous services for my every want and need – blame Uber, Netflix and Just Eat. Slightly miffed that there wasn’t a bike just around the corner, I followed the helpful map directions to find my bike.
I found it just in front of someone’s garden, which made me feel a bit weird about taking it.
Your first half hour ride on an ofo bike is free – hurrah! Otherwise, it’s 50p per half hour with a daily capped fair at £5. You need to use a bank card to top up your account on the app.
Getting on the saddle
After looking around to see if anyone was watching me take a bike from someone’s garden, I quickly scanned the barcode on the bike’s rear wheel and the Bluetooth/3G smart lock almost instantly unlocked. I wheeled it around the corner to feel a little less like I was about to be accused of theft by a neighbour.
The seat is a doddle to adjust, but it didn’t quite extend high enough to comfortably accommodate my 5ft 10 self. Setting off, the bike didn’t feel as sturdy as a Boris bike but I did feel a lot more nimble on it. It’s designed with solid tyres that don’t deflate, an LED headlight, a solar powered rear light and three gears. If you spot a fault or damage, the app lets you report a request for repair.
Ending the trip
Once reaching my destination (Tesco, in case you’re wondering) I was a little unsure where to park the bike for the next user. The website states: ‘You can park your ofo bicycle outside of the pedestrian right of way that complies with local laws and does not obstruct traffic.’ It felt quite wrong just ditching a bike on the street, but I made sure it was on a wide pavement. You then have to locate the lock to slide down underneath the seat (it took me about five embarrassing minutes to work this out) then end the trip on your app.
Anything that encourages city cycling is obviously fantastic and it’s been great to see so many people whizz by on these distinctively yellow bikes. As a south London resident, it’s a relief to see dockless bikes in lieu of Boris bikes and the underground. The app is straightforward to download and use, and I’d say 50p for a half hour cycle isn’t a bad deal at all. The bikes themselves aren’t great but they feel perfectly safe and fine for getting from A to B or just having a ride around the park. The fact that you don’t need to dock them in a specific place gives so much freedom and flexibility, but I’d always consider the next person and try to leave it somewhere super accessible. The app also tells you how far you’ve cycled, how many calories you’ve burned and how much you have reduced your carbon footprint by choosing to cycling instead of taking public transport.
And it’s just good to share the cycling love with such a social incentive, right?
They’re not a reliable mode of transport because you never know where or when you’ll find one quickly, so I wouldn’t ever factor them in when commuting or heading somewhere for a specific time. The motion of taking bike from someone’s garden or even cul-de-sac can leave you feeling a little conspicuous, especially as this is a fairly new incentive that not many people will know about. Oh, and the seat situation could be more comfortable for taller people.
The only other suggestion I have is to give south London more!
Find out more about ofo on their UK website: www.ofo.com