Ofo: Dropping out of another English city

Ofo Bikes had made their presence fairly obvious in the United Kingdom. Now, the company is slowly dropping out of one city after the other. The latest withdrawal: Leeds. 

The yellow bicycles provider launched in various cities across the United Kingdom since the beginning of 2018. Sheffield, which was one of the first cities to welcome the bright yellow, dockless bicycles, was dropped recently. A new report by the BBC Radio confirms that the bikesharing giant has now decided to drop out of Leeds, too. The Northern England city has the fourth largest population in the United Kingdom, with approximately 750,000 citizens.

The revelation follows a series of withdrawals by the Alibaba-backed bike-sharing company. Earlier this month, Ofo announced they would be removing their bikes from Norwich in order to focus more on other key markets, the BBC reported. Apart from London, Sheffield and Leeds are probably Ofo's largest markets in the UK (populations of 550,000 and 750,000 people respectively). Accordingly, the choice to move out of Sheffield and Leeds signals that Ofo will likely be looking to tackle the needs of Londoners, excluding every other British city.

Interestingly, Londoners have been using a bicycle scheme locally known as Boris bikes (due to the former mayor of London who introduced them), or officially known as Santander bikes (and formerly Barclay's bikes, due to their respective sponsors). Boris bikes are a docked-bike service, which features an impressive number of stations in central London (839 stations, almost 14,000 bicycles). In order to compete with the scheme, which offers attractive subscription packages, Ofo has recently introduced its subscription-based model, ofo Pass, in the United Kingdom. The pass is offered in three forms: daily, weekly, and monthly. The daily cost of using Ofo in Britain is capped at £5 (approximately $6.60), with individual rides costing £0.70 ($0.92) / 30 minutes. Santander Bikes offers a yearly subscription for £90 (approximately $120, including unlimited 30 minute rides), and a pay-as-you-go system of £2 ($2.60). 

It will be interesting to observe whether Ofo's focus on London pays dividends - Londoners are generally very fond of their docked-bicycle scheme, and the density of underground stations and bus coverage in the British capital is one of the best in the world. It thus remains to be seen: will dockless services find a gap in the British market and fill it, or will Ofo be moving out of London too, soon?