When dockless bike-sharing service Ofo first appeared in London last year, many people were bemused and irritated by its bright yellow bicycles parked or piled up outside tube stations and on street corners.
The number of Ofo bicycles in the capital quickly rose to almost 3,000 and spread to several cities around the UK. But just as quickly, the bicycles began to disappear after the company cut back its operations in the face of mounting losses.
As the craze for vehicle-hiring in the world’s biggest cities grows, the Chinese start-up highlights the risk of expanding too rapidly, particularly for companies such as electric scooter group Bird, which this month launched a trial in London.
Ofo is now trying to address its problems with a new strategy.
② start-up [stɑrtʌp] n. 启动；初创企业
例句：There's a lot of up-and-coming tech companies and start-ups. 这里有很多很有前途的科技公司和创业公司。
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This summer the group, which had raised $2.2bn from companies including tech giant Alibaba since it was founded in 2014, withdrew from most locations in the UK, including Sheffield and Norwich, sacked most of its staff and largely abandoned its aim of making British cities healthier, cleaner and less congested.
③ redundancy [rɪ'dʌnd(ə)nsɪ] n. 冗余（等于redundance）；裁员；人浮于事
例句：Thousands of bank employees are facing redundancy as their employers cut costs.
Fellow Chinese start-up and rival Mobike has suffered a similar experience in Britain, retreating from Manchester — 10 per cent of its orange bikes there had been damaged or stolen in July alone — and scaling back in London.
例句："I've already got a job," I said quickly, and retreated from the room.
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Bike-sharing services cannot obtain a licence to operate across the whole of London. Instead, they need to sign contracts with each of the 32 boroughs, which can be expensive and time-consuming, and led Ofo to a patchwork of coverage.
This made the service “less attractive”, says Nicole Badstuber, a doctoral researcher in urban transport policy at University College London.
伦敦大学学院(University College London)城市交通政策博士研究员妮科尔•巴德施图贝尔(Nicole Badstuber)说，这使得Ofo的“吸引力下降”。
⑤ patchwork ['pætʃwɜːk] n. 拼缝物，拼缀物；混杂物
例句：For centuries, quilting and patchwork have been popular needlecrafts. 几个世纪以来，被褥绗缝和拼缝一直是流行的针线活。
One former Ofo worker, who like other ex-employees was only prepared to speak on the condition of anonymity, says: “We had bikes turning up . . . as far as Reading [40 miles from central London] which people had taken on the train. Our operations team used to have to spend hours at a time going to find single bikes that had been taken away.”
The lack of trackers on Ofo bikes, which meant the company could not find and collect them when they were left outside a permitted borough, created big problems in the early days, says another Ofo worker.
“You put them on a street and they essentially disappeared and there was no way for us to find where those bikes had gone. At the beginning . . . we were paying people to literally walk around the city looking for bikes,” the worker says.
例句：We've got to get the economy under control or it will literally eat us up. 我们必须控制住经济，否则它真的就会把我们困住。
A further issue was the size of the vehicles. “The first version of bikes that came into London were . . . absolutely tiny,” says a former employee. “Very quickly we realised we needed new bikes . . . They’re the things that start causing trouble.”
Beijing would also not let its UK arm sign long-term leases on warehouse space, says the former employee, “until we saw how the business developed”, which meant short-term fixes had to be found to store the vehicles.
Ofo shipped bikes to London as fast as it could, but it was not fast enough. The former employee adds that the breakage rate on bikes was “incredibly high”: 3,000 bikes would turn into 1,000 within six months because of wear and tear and vandalism.
As one of the former Ofo workers put it: “Everyone thought Ofo had all the money — you see them winning $1bn in funding, and you think, money isn’t an issue. But that much money when you expand into several countries in a year doesn’t go far. I think by the time the financial brakes were slammed on by China it was too late.”