We need to talk about dockless bike-sharing programs

Tried to make use of one of those dockless bicycle-sharing programs on Sunday just gone by…

Found the nearest Ofo bike in Ashfield, in Sydney’s inner-west, but it had no helmet.

Next nearest bike? In someone’s locked backyard.

Next nearest to that? No helmet.

Next nearest? Same deal, no helmet. You get the idea.

And on and on I went, determined to ride one home.

I tried looking for bicycles with helmets from Ofo, Reddy Go, and Mobike. No luck…

After about two hours searching, either they had no helmets or were on someone else’s property.

In Australia, it’s a legal requirement that you wear a helmet while riding.

To make these programs work, do we, like Amsterdam, need to get rid of the rule requiring helmets?

Or is the better solution the companies behind them ensuring they are constantly stocked with helmets or that you can get one easily from a nearby convenience store?

I reported to the companies behind these bicycles that I couldn’t find a helmet. I probably filed 10 reports.

I’ve reached out to Chinese-based Ofo (one of the largest) for comment. Their response is below.

Technology commentator Peter Wells has faced similar problems, it seems. Although, he wasn’t too fussed about the lack of helmets; more the social stigma.

“You can feel the hatred people have for these things as you ride them,” he wrote recently.

“No marketing campaign will fix that.”

Apart from the helmet issue, they get in the way, especially in the city.

Why can’t we build docks for them, like Salt Lake City or San Francisco has?

Until then, these bicycles need rounding up and shipping off back to their storage warehouses.

Ofo’s response:

Do helmets come with ofo bikes?

A certified helmet comes with every bike. ofo’s unique helmets are bright yellow for easy on-road visibility, and have been BSI certified meaning that they are manufactured and tested for safe use in Australia.

Steps we are taking to address helmets on bikes?

Known for the quality of our technology and product, ofo is committed to providing the community with fully functional bikes that they can ride for their first and last mile commute. In doing so, ofo ensures that we have a trained team of operations crew who are always conducting regular checks on ground for indiscriminately parked bikes or broken bikes. In the cases of indiscriminately parked bikes or broken bikes, or bikes without helmets,  we do encourage users and the media to report it through our Facebook channels or through the report function on the ofo app. Based on the urgency of the reports received, we will prioritize the retrieval of each bike so as to ensure public safety. ofo is working closely with various city councils to ensure that our bike sharing services are enjoyed and benefitting our users.

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