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Bike-sharing rivals ramp up battle for Britain

By BO LEUNG | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-20 09:15

Bike-sharing rivals ramp up battle for Britain

A user rides Mobike's shared bikes in Manchester. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chinese bike-sharing companies that have been moving into the UK market in recent months appear to have been outflanked by Singaporean rival Obike, which has introduced bikes all over London, sometimes, apparently, without informing local authorities.

Mobike and Ofo, both Chinese companies, have taken a more cautious approach and have launched limited experimental schemes in Manchester and Cambridge, respectively.

Mobike also received approval from the local authority in the Ealing area of London to introduce bikes there later this month, but Obike looks to have preempted them.

Obikes were first seen in the Tower Hamlets area of East London, then on the west side, in Hammersmith and Fulham, then in the south, in Lambeth, and now in Enfield.

A look at their app, shows Obikes scattered all over the United Kingdom's capital.

Obike is directly competing with London Cycle Hire, which, unlike its Asian counterparts, uses fixed docking points. Obike is offering free rides and a reduced deposit of 29 pounds ($38) to grab market share before its competitors catch up.

It is not clear how many bikes Obike has introduced in London and the company did not respond to a request for an interview.

One council responsible for a part of London said Obike had placed 400 bikes on its streets without letting it know what was happening.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council said in a statement: "We're really positive about cycling in Hammersmith and Fulham, and our cycling strategy sets out ways we plan to make the roads safer, and improve facilities for cyclists. But these bikes appeared without any consultation at all with the council."

It noted concerns about the way bikes have been placed on the streets, obstructing footpaths and "creating a potential hazard for pedestrians particularly the disabled".

Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, said: "We're very much in favor of cycling. But we expect companies to properly consult with us first. This launch could have been much better thought out."

The local authority said, after raising its concerns, Obike had agreed to remove the bikes and will talk to the council about making "their cycle scheme work without negatively affecting pedestrians".

Obike's Chinese rival Ofo said in a statement to the Evening Standard newspaper: "We have met with a number of local authorities across the country, and plan to meet with many more in the coming weeks to discuss our plans and prospective roll out. We are keen to establish a strong working relationship with councils, so that they are fully aware of our plans and understand our business model."

Obike told news website Business Insider it will comply with council requests to move or reposition bikes.

"We're working with councils across London to ensure the roll-out is as smooth as possible and that Obikes are positioned in places that are convenient for the public, but do not cause an unnecessary obstruction," it said.

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