Chinese bike-sharing firm hit with lawsuit after child rider dies

BEIJING • The parents of a child who died in a traffic accident while riding an Ofo share bike in Shanghai have sued the fast-growing start-up for financial compensation.

In the first case of its kind, the lawsuit tests the legal responsibility of China's booming bike-sharing companies when underage children access their bicycles, which have become ubiquitous across the country's major cities.

The victim, a primary school pupil aged under 12, managed to unlock an Ofo bike on March 26 and was riding with friends when the pupil was struck and run over by a bus, according to Chinese media reports. The child died after being taken to hospital.

Following an investigation, local traffic police determined that the child was riding down the wrong side of the road and bore "primary responsibility" for the accident, the reports said.

Chinese traffic regulations stipulate that children must be at least 12 years old to ride bicycles on public roads. But through their lawyer Zhang Qianlin, the family said Ofo should bear responsibility given its bikes were unsupervised and readily available in public spaces.

The lawsuit also claimed its bike locks were inadequate, given the victim and three other underage companions were able to unlock and use the bikes.

The bikes posed a "great hidden risk to safety", the family said, the state-run China Youth Daily reported yesterday.

There have been at least two deaths and more than 10 injuries involving children riding Ofo bikes, the report said, raising questions over government scrutiny and regulation in the fast-evolving market.

Given that such bikes had already become a fixture of city transportation, Mr Zhang said he hoped that ride-sharing platform responsibilities would be further clarified and he called for a push for government regulation to prevent similar tragedies from occurring.

Ofo and main rival Mobike did not respond to requests for comment yesterday. Bike-share users in China numbered around 20 million last year and are expected to reach 198 million by 2021, according to a report by research firm Research and Markets.

Ofo, known for its trademark yellow bikes, has expanded to 100 cities worldwide since its founding in 2014, 70 of which were added this year alone.

Earlier this month, it raised more than US$700 million (S$955 million) in its latest funding round.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese bike-sharing firm hit with lawsuit after child rider dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe