July 23, 2018

Ofo bikeshare leaving Worcester

Ofo bikes once dotted the landscape in Worcester, including in Worcester Common in front of City Hall, but their numbers and dwindling and will hit zero soon.

Ofo, the Chinese company that brought a swarm of yellow rentable bikes to Worcester last year, is folding its operations in Massachusetts amid a much broader retrenchment.

Jordan Levine, the company's head of Northeast communications, said Monday ofo is coordinating with Worcester officials to end its presence here as smoothly as possible.

Worcester was just the second American city (after Seattle) to land ofo bikes when the service launched here last September with 400 bikes. Ofo — spelled in all lower case, so the name looks a little like someone leaning over a bike — has been part of the latest trend in bikesharing. The system is known as dockless, where bikes can be left wherever a rider ends his or her trip, unlike Boston's Blue Bikes, formerly known as Hubway, in which bikes are kept locked at dozens of stations across the city.

Riders can find the bikes using GPS through an app on their phone.

Grace Lin, the company's vice president for the United States, said last fall Worcester fit the criteria that ofo was looking for, including demographics, size and layout.

"It turned out that Worcester and ofo were a mutually good fit," she said.

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Worcester Regional Transit Authority, Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Council, Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts and city offices worked together to bring the bikeshare service to the city.

The departure from Worcester and other Massachusetts cities Lynn and Quincy comes as the company is making much broader cuts across the United States and beyond.

Forbes reported on July 18 ofo laid off the majority of its United States workforce and would withdraw from several markets. As of June, the company was in 30 markets, with plans to expand to 100 by the end of the year, Forbes said. Ofo has also backed out of Australia, Germany, India and Israel, the publication said.

"As we continue to bring bikeshare to communities across the globe," Andrew Daley, ofo's head of North America, said in a statement, "ofo has begun to prioritize operations in a number of successful markets, allowing us to continue to serve our customers at the high level of quality they have come to expect."

Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus issued a statement after ofo said it was withdrawing from the city:

"From Walk-Bike Worcester to Worcester Earn-A-Bike, Worcester has long been a welcoming city for bike share culture. As a result of ofo's recent announcement to cease operations in Massachusetts, the city will work with ofo to facilitate the collection of all remaining bikes in Worcester within a week," he said. "Moving forward, the city remains committed to working with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce as well as several other local partners to identify the right bike share company for Worcester which will ensure safe, accessible and user-friendly alternative transportation in and around our community."


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