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Chines company Ofo brings affordable bike-sharing to Cambridge

Why it matters to you

Bike shares have always centered around docking stations, but Ofo brings freedom to your commute.

Bike shares are a growing convenience in many cities around the world. The idea works. Grab a bicycle, and pay for the time it’s used. What helps set Ofo apart is that bikes can be picked up of dropped off anywhere.

The Chinese company currently has its bicycles throughout China, the United States, and Singapore. This month, 500 Ofo bicycles will be set up in Cambridge, England, marking the first time the bikes have been seen on the streets of the United Kingdom.

More: Norwegian Bicycle Hotel makes wheel travel easy

Like any other bike-sharing service, cyclists can obtain an Ofo bike no matter what time it is. The big difference is that Ofo removes the need for a docking station. Instead, users can pick them up and dispose of the bike wherever and whenever they please. To reserve a bicycle, riders with the app are able to locate the nearest one. Once they get to it, they enter the bike’s number into the app and a four-digit code is sent to open the lock on the back wheel.

When a rider is done with the bike, returning it is just as easy. After pulling up to a legal place to park the bicycle, all they have to do is scramble the lock. In Cambridge, using the bike costs a flat fee of 0.50 pounds, regardless of how long or how far it traveled.

Ofo, named because its letters resemble a bike, has been quickly growing since it first rolled out 2,000 bikes on the campus of Peking University in September 2015. Now there are more than one million bikes across 34 cities in China, as well as the firm’s recent international expansion.

“We want to expand to more cities, connect more bikes and serve more people,” said Ofo founder Dai Wei in a conversation with Wired. “We want to be a global bike-sharing company.”