All yellow OFO bikes will be wheeled off campus by the end of the day tomorrow. UCSD Transportation Services ordered OFO to remove all bikes immediately on Tuesday, April 18. The company has responded by promising to remove all bikes by the end of Friday.
OFO, a company based in China, launched an experimental bike-sharing program at UCSD in February 2017. In order to ride, users obtain a code through the OFO mobile app unique to each bike. After placing 50 bikes on campus in February, the company dropped off 250 more last Wednesday. They’ve seen over 1000 uses per day since Apr. 12 and students have been able to ride free of charge.
Despite the company’s ubiquitous presence on campus, UCSD Transportation Services claims it never formally approved an agreement with OFO. The bikes appeared on campus without the University’s approval, Marketing and Communications Director Laura Margoni said in an email to The Triton.
In addition to lacking a formal agreement, Transportation Services also cited that it has received several complaints of parked bikes blocking access ramps, hand rails, and sidewalks. Margoni added that OFO also fails to meet certain insurance policy requirements set by the University of California for bike share programs.
“The campus has been diligently researching bike sharing programs with agencies such as the San Diego Association of Governments as well as at other colleges and our sister UC campuses,” Margoni said. “We hope to issue a request for information [or] proposals for a bike-sharing program later this year.”
The Triton Bikes bike sharing program, the formal program operated by the campus, allows students to check out recycled bikes free of charge. However, unlike using OFO’s mobile app, students must visit the Gilman Parking office, complete a waiver, and show a valid form of I.D. to check out a bike. The bikes must also be returned within 48 hours.
First year UCSD student DP Li has been acting as OFO’s partner in bringing the bike sharing service to campus. Li said that he spoke with a transportation services representative in October 2016 to propose the idea.
After receiving the notice to remove the bikes, Li published an online survey and petition on Apr. 18. At the time of publishing, there were over 1400 responses. 99% of survey respondents reported they have noticed the yellow bikes, with 53% selecting that they’ve used the service.
Seeking a long term solution, Li plans to work with Vice Chancellor Gary Matthews and the Office of Transportation to make the bike program official and permanent. Li would like to initiate a fee referendum for the university to select OFO as its bike sharing supplier and increase student activity fees to pay for the program. These fees would go toward maintenance of the bikes and the company itself.
“A lot of people I know don’t own a bike because they don’t use it enough or it’s too much of a hassle to get it to and from campus. This allows them some of the perks of a bike without the hassle and maintenance,” UCSD student Griffin Stamp said. “I’m disappointed that [OFO is] being discontinued. They provided a service that I used and I believe was a net positive for the community.”