Less than a day after laying off 70 percent of its U.S.-based employees, dockless bike rental company ofo confirmed to the Dallas Observer on Thursday that it is pulling out of Dallas after less than a year in the city. The China-based company behind the thousands of yellow bikes that have littered Dallas streets, sidewalks and lakes is focusing its operation elsewhere in the United States, said Everett Weiler, the general manager of ofo Texas.
"As we continue to bring bike share to communities across the globe, ofo has begun to re-evaluate markets that present obstacles to new, green transit solutions and prioritize growth in viable markets that support alternative transportation and allow us to continue to serve our customers," Weiler said. "As a result, we will not be seeking a permit to operate in Dallas, and we thank the city for allowing us to introduce bike share to millions of people in Texas."
After almost a year of allowing ofo and its competitors to operate in Dallas without regulations, the Dallas City Council established a permitting process for the transportation companies late last month. Ofo (the name is supposed to mimic the profile a rider sitting astride one of its bikes) was the only company to publicly complain about the new regulations. The $21 per-bike permitting fee was too high, said Weiler, who threatened that the fees would chase bikes out of the Dallas market.
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“We commend Dallas for welcoming dockless shared mobility before crafting regulations. Unfortunately, these new rules are a step backward with such exorbitant fees that will drastically reduce access to affordable transportation options," Weiler said.
Since the registration fees went into effect, downtown Dallas and its surrounding areas have been flooded with electric scooters, which the council recently legalized as part of six-month pilot program. As the scooters have come in, the number of available bikes — as high as 18,000 this winter — has dwindled.
While the scooters offer users a quicker way to get around, they are more expensive to ride than the formerly ubiquitous bikes, requiring a $1 initial drop on top of a 15-cents-per-minute charge. Ofo bikes cost $1 for every 30 minutes of use.
As of Thursday afternoon, dozens of ofo bikes were still available for rent via the company's app. Eric Smith, a spokesman for the company, said he did not know when the company plans to remove all of its bikes from Dallas.