On the streets of many Chinese cities, unseen by the outside world, a war is being fought.
Fought by two bike-sharing companies, it’s like Uber vs. Lyft for cyclists.
Both operate on a dockless system, meaning you can find a bike almost anywhere, unlock it with a phone app, and leave it wherever you want to (within reason) once you’ve finished.
Unfortunately, neither start-up is yet turning a profit. Expansion is still the aim, which is why the war is being so fiercely fought.
If the stalemate continues, a merger into a new entity called Mofo would be amazing. Just for the name.
Please merge, guys.
But until that happens, ofo are looking to steal a march on Mobike by introducing a revolutionary new feature: a smog-fighting, air-purifying filter that will sit atop the handlebars, draw polluted air up from around the front wheel, and expel clean air straight into the face of the rider.
The Dutch innovation firm Studio Roosegaarde has teamed up with ofo to develop the device, which studio founder Daan Roosegaarde told Quartz would be ready to be released as a prototype by the end of this year.
Studio Roosegaarde is the same organization that developed Beijing’s Smog Free Tower, a 7-meter tall installation that purportedly cleans 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour.
However, while these innovations are clearly needed in China more than most other places, they may soon be coming to a city near you.
Ofo already operates in 150 cities across China, the UK, Kazakhstan and in Singapore, and is due to launch in the US in the summer of 2017.
Roosegaarde is predicting the air-purifying technology will one day spread globally too.
“We’re ambitious,” he said.
“This is not meant as a one-off, artistic project. Thinking about millions and millions of these bikes, we can really have an impact on the air quality index of a city.”
If the scheme takes off, it may swing the shared-bike war in ofo’s favor.
However, this being China, you can be sure Mobike will be keeping a keen eye on developing their own version of the technology should it do so.
If that happens, we’ll all win, as it’ll mean more clean air for us all to ride in and an extension of the deadlock which may one day, hopefully, please, God, end with us all riding a Mofo bike.