Bike-Sharing Operation Folds After Just Half a Year

Two men ride Tal-Ofen bicycles in Tel Aviv. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

Ofo, one of three bike-sharing companies in Israel, is winding down its local operation, barely half a year after beginning it in January 2018. In a statement, the company said that it was reconsidering its activities in all Middle Eastern countries. A report in TheMarker said that the company was frustrated by bike thefts, and bike “reservations,” in which people who had finished using a bike would place their own lock on it in order to prevent someone else from using it.

Ofo had a fleet of some 700 bicycles centered in the Ramat Gan area. Unlike the veteran Tal-Ofen bike-sharing firm, which operates in Tel Aviv and requires that users lock up their bikes at specific stations when they are finished with them, Ofo, and a third firm called Mobike, used an app to keep track of bikes. When a rider was done with the bike, they could just leave it on the street, and another Ofo customer would be able to locate it and use it to ride to their destination.

The convenience of the system turned out to be one of its biggest problems, according to the report. Riders were using the bikes in areas they were not supposed to be riding in – far outside of town, for example, making it difficult for other riders to retrieve the bikes – and the “locking” phenomenon, which reduced the fleet of bikes significantly, thus causing potential customers to seek other modes of transportation.

Ofo said in a statement that it “is ending its activities in the Middle East in order to concentrate on other areas. The decision was made as a strategic one for the company’s future, and was not connected with the success or lack thereof of the company in the local market.”