On September 21, between 12 noon and 2 pm, I noticed over 75 yellow Ofo bikes around town; about half were still being used.
“It’s a score,” Joey G. said, “if you find them unlocked, you’re lucky.”
I saw Joey on the corner of Broadway and Park Boulevard; while we spoke, security guards were asking him and his buddy to move along with their belongings — including Joey’s recently found Ofo bike.
“The whole bike is salvageable except for that locking mechanism (mounted on top of the rear wheel),” he said. “It’s a 26-inch and the parts work great with beach cruisers. You can even take this whole seat off and put it on another bike.”
I asked how to remove the parts because there were no obvious bolts or standard-looking screws.
“Husky makes the tool to remove this,” he said, “it’s a special tool.”
Last month KUSI News reported, “Ofo bikes being recycled after being abandoned across San Diego.”
The newscast posted photos and video of the bikes in a large dumpster at a recycling center in Logan Heights. “They had like 150-200 Ofo bikes in a big pile,” said Andrew Stannard in the televised interview, “and they were like you can’t buy anything off of them …. they got to scrap them by law.”
As I drove and walked around downtown, most of the Ofos were in lock mode; I pushed the rubber buttons on the lock mechanisms and some still made sounds. I found an unlocked Ofo bike on the corner of Market Street and by the trolley tracks next to Park Boulevard Express.
“Is this yours,” I asked a woman sitting in a truck parked next to the bike. She said “yes, it is."
I found one by the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum on 3rd Avenue and J Street. The unit’s lock mechanism was completely removed and the bike rolled freely; no one was in the vicinity to claim it.
I saw another guy wearing a red cape walking his Ofo along Fourth Avenue; his bike had a straw basket in place of the foregone metal one in front of the handlebars.
“Bro, can I talk to you about your bike?” I asked as I jogged by him. By now he was riding the bike and said “No, no, no.”
On the same street I saw another two individuals with Ofo bikes who brushed me off.
I found a toppled Ofo in front of Lucky D’s Hostel on 8th Avenue. Someone attempted to remove the lock mechanism so it hung freely between the rear wheel — the bike was not rideable.
As I was driving by the southside of Balboa Park by I-5 I saw a handful of yellow bikes.
“I found my bike three months ago over on 6th and Upas,” David said, “the locking mechanism doesn’t work on it.”
I asked to sit down next to him underneath a tree facing 6th Avenue.
“I’m a recycler and I pick up recyclables,” he said, “having the bike makes it a lot easier. I collect about the same amount but it’s just quicker.”
“In a day I can make about $20-$25 with cans, plastic, and a little bit of glass. I can’t pick up glass any more because the cops took my shopping cart. You’re talking about 100 pounds. of glass in them shopping carts.”
I asked why he had the bike lying on its side rather than upright with the kickstand supporting it.
“To keep it low-pro, and I keep it close to me so it can’t get stolen.”
“What else do you like about the bike,” I asked.
“The tires don’t go flat and that’s an advantage,” he said, “the little basket, there’s a horn on the grip, and it’s a girl frame so you don’t crack your balls on it.”
I saw a few more Ofos in Hillcrest, North Park …. and City Heights, where I encountered one by 37th Street that was burned but still rideable because the lock was removed. Then up the street, the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association had an Ofo bike in their front window display; the lock-mechanism was unlocked and had an artificial flower partially covering it. I logged onto the Ofo app, and the bike in the window was not available to scan and ride.
In the immediate area, there was only one more bike showing on the app, supposedly by the pink Cali Mari mariscos truck on 35th Street and El Cajon Boulevard. “I don’t see it around here.” said the guy manning the food truck.
Steven is a 57-year-old cyclist that cycles from his home in La Mesa to a commercial printing facility in Hillcrest. He used to see hundreds of share bikes on his commute and outside of his office windows.
“The bikes may have maintained some limited success if they were not kicked to the curb by the electric scooters,” Steven said. “I notice a homeless person have one of the Ofo bikes then the next week, they are walking with maybe a shopping cart. The bikes seem to rotate at times and probably get taken from them by other homeless people.”
Steven remembers in July when an Ofo rep dropped off bikes by his office. “A [guy] walked by, picked up an Ofo bike and walked off. He then stopped and banged on the lock a few times until it broke, and rode off. Free bike.”
Linda Pennington from City Heights and her San Diego Canyonlands team, pulled out tons of trash left behind in their canyons — including Ofo bikes.
“Here’s one Ofo bike that I found in Auburn Creek along with a bunch of other metal including the side-by-side refrigerator that someone dumped next to the creek,” she said.
After City Heights, I hopped on the 15 and 8 freeways towards Mission Beach by the roller coaster; there are a lot of Ofos still being used here.
I noticed an Ofo bike with its lock mechanism disengaged but it was locked down with a Kryptonite chain to the bike rack.
“That’s a personal bike, man …. I don’t think they [are connected to the computer system] any more,” Monte said, “they’ve just kinda left them here.”
Monte is the manager of Mission Beach Rentals that’s located feet away from the boardwalk.
“Yah, when Ofo [supposedly] pulled out I feel like we’ve boosted [in business],” he said. “We were pretty excited.”