China’s Bike-Share Upstarts Face Tough Road in U.S.

Ofo bikes on a sidewalk in Shanghai. Photo by Bloomberg

Like several other local transportation officials in the U.S. in recent weeks, Eric Bourassa of the Boston area’s planning council has fielded meeting requests from Ofo, China’s fast-growing bike-share company. Ofo is considering a major expansion into the U.S. and is discussing options with officials in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston, according to people in those cities.

Cracking those markets could be tough for Ofo and rival Chinese startup Mobike, which is also trying to expand here. Most large U.S. cities already have an extensive bike-share program in place run by a single company, often with exclusive rights to operate. Ofo, which raised $700 million last week from Alibaba and others, hopes to get a shot at competing with those established operators.

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“Operating in urban areas is a complex thing to do,” Mr. Walder said. “Cities are looking to establish order and control for that and they want to do it in a thoughtful way.”

—Yunan Zhang contributed to this article.

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“There is more benefit than just having a place to park a bike. You create an environment where you have a mobility hub that raises the value of real estate and creates a place for transit.”