They came, they saw, they conquered! No I’m not talking about the Euro Cup. Instead, I’m referring to the invasion of the Ofo bikes, also known as the “Campus Bicycle Sharing Project” and affectionately nicknamed “little yellow bicycles,” which are readily available for students to ride. Masterminded by three cycling obsessed students from Peking University, this operation has since expanded nationwide to other big cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xi’an.

Students are more familiar with these yellow bikes than most Beijingers, as they line the front of our buildings just waiting to be taken for a spin. When I first saw students at my school riding them I thought: "Is this the new trend in China?" Little did I know how grateful I’d be to Ofo founders Zhang Siding, Dai Wei, and Xue Dong for the chance to ride a bike around and not worry about thieves or finding another suitable bicycle to take by just a scan of a code.

Those three founders have humble beginnings. Ofo was established in September 2015 by three Peking University Cycling Association members who just wanted people to ride bicycles anytime and anywhere. The trio started out hosting successful cycling tours in Taiwan and Jeju island in South Korea as tourist travel guides of sorts. Owing to some unavoidable hurdles, they decided to shift their focus somewhere closer to home, specifically Peking University campus.

They hit a few speed bumps in the early stages of founding Ofo. Having little or no experience in the business sector, they found it hard to appeal to students and find investors for their “Campus Bicycle Sharing Project.” Thankfully, a Peking Uni alumnus was impressed by the idea, and  agreed to invest. Before long, the project took off.

Fast forward to the present. The business has spread to 100 campuses all around China, with 32,918 and counting Ofo 
bicycles in use, and funding to the tune of 9 million yuan.

The process of procuring an Ofo bicycle is as simple as using Wi-Fi at a cafe. Each bike has its own unique license plate number and QR code, as well as a keypad lock. All you have to do is scan the QR code on the bike, then register on the Ofo bicycle WeChat public account (ID: ofobike). From there select the "use bike" option, Input your phone number, wait for the authentication code text message and then enter the bike license plate number. The keypad lock code is given after that, and then you're ready to ride.

Bear in mind that all of this is done in Mandarin, so if you can’t read characters or just started learning it can seem scary. But don’t worry – Ofo's systems has pictures to illustrate every step.

When you’re done, park the bike anywhere you please, and choose the end/finish (结束用车) option on the Ofo WeChat account menu, before paying the fee of less than RMB 2. For university students, this is where our student ID cards come in handy – if you take a picture of it and upload at the menu's teacher/student authentication option (师生认证 – 拍照上传认证), then your ride is free. There’s so much power in a little piece of paper with an embarassing photo of you glued onto it.

Ofo opens so many options to cyclists – everything from gaining half price entry to scenic spots like the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, to the Glass Bridge Platform in Pinggu district and Karst caves in Fangshan district. It can even be used in outlying places like the Shaolin Temple in Henan province and the Terra Cotta Warriors in Shanxi province. It can also be used for more laid back activities like going to the movies, museums or getting into another school’s dorm to see your friends.

It’s almost like an FBI badge in the movies – you flip it open, they inspect it for a moment, and afterwards you’re let through while everyone else stares at you in envy. No, you don't agree? Just me? Fine, but you can’t deny that student IDs do give us an advantage over most of the population. We can get into places and use things for free like the Ofo bicycles, and we should use it at any chance we get. Train tickets? I have a student card. Going to the Beijing Opera? Student discount. Visiting Madam Tussauds Wax Museum? Student discount.

Bottom line: most companies have student discount prices, such as phone companies and travel agencies that we can benefit from (if you ask). And Ofo is just one more company to happily add to the list.

At the end of the day, you have your Ofo bicycle to ride off into the sunset, free of charge, thanks to your nifty little student ID. I should also give a big thanks to the three PKU students who took a hobby, and through trial and error, and transformed it into an innovative and convenient pass time for bike-less university students. By the end of the year the company hopes to increase its user base to 3 million and expand to 500 more campuses across China. I have no doubt that they will achieve their goals.

Photo: Baidu


Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog