Improved design, new functions for ofo bicycles; changes also aimed at reducing abuse of bikes

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Cyclists displaying the new Ofo bicycles at a press conference by the bike-sharing company to talk about its progress, new bikes and app developments on May 24, 2017.

SINGAPORE - China bike-sharing firm ofo marked the first 100 days of its operations in Singapore with a slew of improvements to its bicycles and app, aimed at improving the user experience and addressing abuse concerns.

Putting the yellow two-wheelers in line with those of its two competitors - Mobike and oBike - ofo will, over the next month, progressively roll out 500 new bicycles with features such as smart locks, which allows users to unlock the bicycles by scanning a QR code, instead of the number lock on its existing bikes.

It is also rolling out an upgrade of its mobile app to allow users to locate nearby bikes. This feature, however, cannot be used to locate its older bikes, which are not GPS-enabled.

Since Tuesday (May 23) users have also been required to make a one-time deposit of $39 on registration, with rides charged at $1 per hour, capped at $2 for an entire journey.

The deposit is aimed at encouraging users to ride the bikes more responsibly, said ofo's Asia-Pacific business head Lawrence Cao. ofo bicycles have been pictured on social media abandoned in drains and even repainted. But Ms Elin Mah, the firm's regional manager, noted that "fewer than one per cent" of its "few thousand" bikes are abused here.

Said Mr Cao: "These enhancements and upgrades have been implemented based on user feedback, and we are confident that they will address current issues to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to enjoy a truly seamless riding experience."

ofo aims to introduce 1,000 of its new bicycles across 28 different Housing Board estates by the end of the year (2017). It is also tying up with AXA Insurance to ensure both its bicycles and riders are insured.

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