Another bike-share company comes to Durham, with one key difference

Ofo, a Chinese-based bike-share startup, is bringing its bicycles to Durham.
Ofo, a Chinese-based bike-share startup, is bringing its bicycles to Durham. Courtesy of Ofo

If you were just getting used to the sight of hundreds of new orange and green bikes around downtown Durham, get ready for hundreds more – this time in yellow.

Ofo, a Chinese-based bike-share startup, says it will be bringing its dockless bikes to the Bull City starting Tuesday, Dec. 12.

Ofo will be the third dockless bike startup to set up shop in the city, after Spin (which has orange bikes) and LimeBike (which has green ones) began operating in the city last month.

Both LimeBike and Spin, two dockless bike share programs, will put bikes on the streets of Durham for public use next week.

Ofo operates like Spin and LimeBike: Users unlock the bike through an app on their phones and can leave it wherever when they finish riding. The bikes use GPS technology, so users can find available bikes through maps on their respective apps. Customers can only unlock a bike through the app.

One big difference is that Ofo will charge $1 for an hour of use, while Spin and LimeBike charge $1 for 30 minutes of riding.

Dockless bike-share startups are flocking to Durham now after the city approved a bike-share ordinance that allows companies to place up to 2,500 shareable bikes around the city.

Durham had been one of the last big cities in North Carolina to have some form of bike share, but it is now quickly becoming one of the cities with the most options. LimeBike had already launched on the campuses of N.C. State and UNC Greensboro, and both Spin and LimeBike began putting bikes in Charlotte last month. UNC-Chapel Hill launched its own program last month.

Dockless bike-share programs, which were first popularized in China, have multiplied across the U.S. this year, as investors have poured millions into several burgeoning startups. Ofo was one of the original Chinese companies to create dockless bike sharing.

Dockless bike-share programs have become attractive options for cities looking to boost their transportation options, as they are a cheaper alternative to installing multiple docking stations for a city-run system. A dock-based program that Raleigh is planning will reportedly cost $1.65 million to deploy 300 bikes at 30 stations.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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