Bright yellow bikes appeared almost overnight across Vanderbilt’s campus. They are part of a pilot program with ofo, a dockless bike share company from China that recently started expanding into the U.S.
Students are able to rent bikes with a smartphone app, and return them to any of the parking areas designated by green paint, regardless of which station they were taken from.
Each bike has a lock that prevents the spokes from moving, which can be unlocked by scanning a QR code or typing in a code. Riders can return bikes to any of the geofence parking boundaries throughout campus, and locking the bike automatically ends the ride. All of this is controlled by the ofo mobile app, but those without smartphones can also call 844-289-9747 to request a code.
Users start with a 100 point ofo score, which the company says is used “to maintain and encourage good behavior among ofo riders.” Completing actions like finishing a ride or parking in a preferred area adds points to a user’s score, while parking outside of a designated area or damaging a bike can take points away. Users whose scores reduced to zero will no longer be able to use ofo bikes. A full list of rules are available at ofo’s website.
The idea for bringing the program was first proposed by Yalun Feng and the Vanderbilt Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Society. Vice Chancellor Eric Kopstain and the FutureVU team worked with ofo to organize this pilot in order to gauge interest in the bike share program, as well as to collect data about most travelled bike routes on campus.
The pilot began on March 27 and will last for six months. Users who sign up with a Vanderbilt email address will receive free rides for the first month, as well as a special pricing of 50 cents per hour for the remainder of the pilot. After six months, Vanderbilt and ofo will decide whether or not to continue the program based on demonstrated interest as well as the development of Nashville’s policy on dockless bike share for the city.