London Evening Standard)
- ROSS LYDALL Chief News Correspondent
- Friday 3 November 2017
- Cycling in London could reach Amsterdam levels with almost one in three journeys made by bike, the boss of one of the “dockless” firms launching in the capital predicted today.
Zhang Yanqi, 30, co-founder of ofo, set out a vision where cycling became commonplace as millions of commuters used the so-called “Uber for bikes” to complete their journeys.
Founded by Mr Zhang and four fellow Peking University students in 2014, it has eight million bikes in 170 cities and has earmarked London for major expansion.
ofo is one of four dockless bike hire firms – alongside Mobike, Urbo and oBike – that have targeted London. The bikes are cheaper than Boris bikes and aim to expand across the city from pilot schemes in selected boroughs.
Speaking to the Standard during a visit to the capital, Mr Zhang said he wanted to mirror the success of Beijing, where three-quarters of the 20 million population are registered ofo users. “We bring people back to the bike,” he said.
About two per cent of trips in London are cycled. Asked if the capital could emulate Amsterdam, where about 30 per cent of trips are by bike, he said: “I don’t know – maybe even higher?
“If people love us.. I think we have a chance to bring more people back to bikes in London. Less cars on the streets and better air, and the cost is lower. It makes people live an easier life in London.”
ofo has several hundred bikes in Hackney and Islington but its aim is for up to 150,000 bikes across the capital. These will include the first fleet of e-bikes – battery-powered electric bikes – next year. “We want to do it fast, but we do not want to rush,” Mr Zhang said of his company’s expansion plans.
“The most important thing is not about the number of bikes in the city, but are we really helping the city to solve the problem… congestion, pollution, the commuting problem in London?