As of this writing, the dockless bike sharing firm Ofo has provided 11.5 million rides to people on its canary-yellow bicycles, but photos of a colossal pile of bikes in Dallas that emerged over the weekend show that while Ofo’s “pioneering spirit comes from a genuine love for cycling,” it does not always have a genuine love for the actual bikes.
“Checkout the bike share program now. What a waste!,” commented Facebook user Robert Vandling when sharing the below photo on Sunday. It was soon picked up on Twitter, prompting Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to characterize the waste as “terrible.” Ofo announced it was leaving Dallas after it determined fees by the city were made the enterprise not attractive enough. Reported the Dallas Morning News: “The new rules require the companies to pay an $808 application fee and $21 per bike if they want to operate in Dallas.” In July, Ofo announced it was leaving Chicago after fees were also imposed there.
But there’s more to the pile of wasted bikes, an Ofo rep tells Inverse: “As we wind down select markets, we remain committed to environmental sustainability and will continue to donate Ofo bikes in good working condition to local communities and recycle all bikes when they’re beyond repair or no longer able to use.” So, the bikes seen in the photo above were not deemed in “good working condition” by the company and hit the recycling heap.
The Beijing-based Ofo started in 2014 and is based in more than 20 countries. Ofo’s dockless system means that the bicycles can be ridden and dropped off anywhere — it seemed to hit its peak in 2017 with a reported $2 billion valuation. Things took a turn this year when the company announced it was withdrawing from various U.S. cities and and reduced its operations.
Are dockless electric scooters — the other two-wheeled mode of transport fueled by major investment — next? Companies like Bird and Lime compete in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, as people pick up scooters for quick zips down the boardwalk, but not all cities may be as welcoming: Since mid-June launches, both Indianapolis and Milwaukee have filed a cease-and-desist order against Bird for a guerrilla rollout of the scooters, with Milwaukee instituting a $100 fine against people who ride them at all. Even the rollout in Bird’s own hometown of Santa Monica has been litigious, the company settled a nine-count misdemeanor case against them to the tune of $300,000 in fees for failing to obtain the proper permits, and for ignoring citations, Inverse reported this month.
As Alan Taylor writes in an photo-heavy blog post in The Atlantic this month, China’s bike-share graveyards are becoming increasingly common, the result of over-hyped, over-invested, over-measured projects that never saw the expected demand. “The scale of the situation was so large to begin with, it will be a long time before the bicycle graveyards fade away,” Taylor writes of the situation in China. Dallas got a glimpse of that this weekend.