By Seth Daniel
Yellow bikes are preparing to invade the City’s sidewalks and thoroughfares as the increasingly-popular ofo bike sharing service has been approved to launch in Chelsea this week.
“ofo is coming to Chelsea,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I think they may launch this week.”
ofo is a bike sharing company based in China that has recently launched operations very successfully in Revere – where their trademark yellow bikes have seen wide-spread usage in the rollout there this month. City Councilor Roy Avellaneda brought ofo to the attention of Ambrosino and, after a meeting, he said the City was willing to allow a 60-day pilot in Chelsea with about 150 bikes stationed in the city.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I think this concept is in some ways better because there’s no investment. HubWay wanted a major investment from the City for infrastructure and they were still reluctant to come to Chelsea. This business is far superior from that perspective. The only question is are they going to be a nuisance. As long as you they get the right numbers for the usage, I don’t think they’ll be a nuisance.”
He said there is no commitment from the City and the bikes will be removed in December and the City will evaluate the program.
ofo is one of a number of companies, which also includes HubWay that is used exclusively in Boston. However, unlike HubWay, ofo doesn’t use permanent parking stations that take up sidewalk and/or parking spaces. Instead, the bikes have a GPS monitoring system and are parked wherever the user desires. They lock up automatically and are activated using a QR code scanner on a cell phone. They are also a lot cheaper, at $1 per hour.
However, right now, Revere is the only other user in the general area, making it a potential problem to be able to ride across City lines to Everett or East Boston.
Ambrosino said they are leaning towards a regional carrier that will be determined by a Massachusetts Area Planning Council (MAPC) Request for Proposals. He said connectedness is likely very important on this issue.
“I think the goal is to have what the region goes with,” he said. “MAPC will put out an RFP for a regional user. They will select one company so there is interoperability between cities and towns. I think we’ll be wanting to use the same one in Chelsea. You can’t have one in Boston and one in Revere and one in Chelsea…We’ve told ofo that’s where Chelsea wants to go.”