Earlier this year, various cities in the UK saw the introduction of the yellow Ofo bikes, part of a new bike-sharing system. In an earlier post I suggested that it is going to take some skill to do this sharing successfully. So how have these skills fared so far in the lovely city where I live, the city of Sheffield?
It seems the pessimists’ fears have come true: this sharing in our city has not worked out. At least, that has been the conclusion of the company who put the scatter bikes in place.
Apparently, the initial vandalism which bike-sharing companies consider part of their collateral damages, did not wear off in Sheffield. In June, the company investing in Sheffield even created a ‘rapid response team’ in order to tackle this vandalism, but to no avail. The company will now concentrate their efforts in other UK cities.
That is also the public story supporting the withdrawal: vandalism is not officially cited as the reason for removing the bikes from Sheffield.
The sad irony is that, when Ofo introduced its scheme in January, which happened on an impressive scale, the existing bike-sharing scheme run by the University of Sheffield was folded. This scheme had the advantage of using fixed docking points.
Fixed docking points were also its main disadvantage, however. The old scheme benefited a much smaller number of people. However, it might also have enjoyed a much longer life, with the potential of growing slowly but surely into a sustainable practice that would benefit larger groups of people in the city, including those living and working further away from the university and its (elite) communities.
Of course, the withdrawal of Ofo from the city has not been accompanied with the same display and splendor as its arrival. It all happened rather silently.
It looks like in this case we witnessed – or rather, did not witness – the silent failure of sharing. Or, to give the phrase a somewhat cynical positive spin: the silent skill of failing.
Let’s hope Ofo has at least given Sheffield’s many latent cyclists a good taste of the pleasures of cycling. Perhaps another bike-sharing scheme will come and fill the gap – but perhaps also, we can do this on our own: ‘get on your bikes and ride’?