Company says poor supervision led to collision
Chinese bike-sharing giant Ofo said during a court hearing in Shanghai on Friday that the main culprit of the accident that took the life of a 10-year-old boy while he was riding one of its shared bikes was poor parental supervision.
The boy's parents have sued Ofo for more than 7.61 million yuan (.16 million) in compensation, and requested the company immediately install smart locks on all its bikes.
The boy, who has not been identified, collided with a tourist bus while racing three other boys around his age and riding on the wrong side of the road in the city's central Tiantong Road on March 26.
He died at a hospital shortly after the crash.
The bus driver and Shanghai Hongmao Auto Rental, which owns the vehicle that the boy collided head-on with, were also sued by the parents for an additional 1 million yuan.
It is the first litigation in the country against a bike-sharing company over an accident.
The boy's parents believed the primary cause of his death was that Ofo bikes are easily accessible to children owing to mechanical flaws.
Older models operated by the company have mechanical locks, which require a four-digit combination. "The combination for one bike is always the same and when some users forget to scramble the combination after finishing their journey, they can be ridden for free," Zhang Qianlin, the plaintiff's attorney, told the court.
"Even if the lock is scrambled, techniques to unlock the bikes are widely circulated online and can be easily mastered by children," said Zhang.
Chinese law forbids minors under 12 years old from riding bicycles on roads. Zhang said that despite media reports of juveniles being injured from riding shared bikes, Ofo failed to update its equipment to block underage users.
However, Ofo believed the accident happened because of the parents' lack of supervision and an absence of safety education.
Moreover, the company said the boy inappropriately unlocked the bike, which infringed upon the property rights of the company and eventually led to the tragedy.
"Shared bikes are not equivalent to public bikes. They cannot be used by people for free. Users must register on the app and unlock the bike only after receiving the four-digit password," said Ouyang Jihua, the attorney for Ofo.
"Ofo can give some money to the couple as compensation but has denied their accusations," he said.
The verdict is pending.