Abandoned ofo bikes sold for scrap metal in San Diego

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – After a tip came into KUSI that ofo bikes were being stacked up and sold as scrap metal for $3 a piece, we went to check it out.

We got THIS exclusive video of dozens upon dozens of the banana-yellow bikes stacked up at a local recycling center.

The recycling center just east of Downtown San Diego, purchased the irreparable bikes as scrap metal.

We reached out to ofo for comment, this is what they said:

“As we wind down select markets, we remain committed to environmental sustainability and will continue to donate ofo bikes in good working condition to local communities and recycle all bikes when they’re beyond repair or no longer able to use. And since we’re still serving other markets across the US, we are also repurposing assets for those cities.”

Neighbors of the recycling center said they’d rather see the yellow bikes piled up there than strewn across the streets of San Diego or even worst in the ocean.

The Chinese bike-sharing startup has already laid off employees across the board in North America, in marketing, communications, and engineering, and it’s dramatically pulled back its US operations in just the past month.

ofo was one of the first dockless bike-share companies to set up in the US, challenging existing docked programs like Ford GoBike in San Francisco and Citi Bike in New York. Those docked bike-share programs were largely operated by a company named Motivate, which sold to Lyft earlier this month for a reported $250 million.

That deal was followed by Uber buying the dockless bike-sharing startup Jump Bikes in April for a reported $200 million.

ofo believed the dockless model, in addition to being more convenient for customers, would help it expand quickly and affordably.

In January, Taylor, ofo’s then-head of North America, told Forbes that a typical docked bike program spent $80,000 to $100,000 to set up each dock, and $1,500 to $2,000 per bike.

By comparison, he said, ofo spent “a couple hundred bucks” per bike. “We provide a better bike and it’s more cost effective,” he said.

ofo has struggled with theft and vandalism particularly by the homeless in San Diego according to police.  The seeming disposability of the bikes, paired with its use by homeless in the area prompted hundreds of public complaints about the bikes being left strewn across sidewalks or tossed into the ocean.

When asked whether ofo was pulling out of San Diego, the company, based in China but with regional offices in the Bay Area, Traylor Bennett said in an email to KUSI:

“No, still operating and serving San Diego. We just recycle bikes and old parts that are beyond repair. All part of our normal operations and bike lifecycles.”

The company once had more than 40,000 bikes in the U.S.; on Tuesday, ofo representative Taylor Bennett said via email that the current number “is proprietary.”

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