Chinese dockless bike-sharing company Ofo announced plans to put 150,000 of its cycles on London's streets as rival Mobike brought more of its bikes to the British capital on the weekend.
Mobike rolled out 200 of its silver and orange bicycles in Islington, three weeks after competitor Ofo dropped off 100 of its yellow cycles on the streets of the same North London borough.
The two bike-sharing companies are the largest in China and the main protagonists in the country's "bike wars", in which dozens of startups have competed for market share in hundreds of cities.
The two companies had launched in London boroughs previously – Ofo in Hackney and the City of London and Mobike in Ealing – though Islington is the first place in the capital where the companies have crossed paths.
"We welcome competition in Islington, just as we did in Oxford when Mobike launched there several months after us," said Joseph Seal-Driver, general manager for Ofo in the UK. "It's healthy and ultimately benefits the public."
Outside the capital, Ofo and Mobike operate in Oxford while Mobike operates in Newcastle and Manchester and Ofo hires out bikes in Cambridge and Norwich.
Steve Pyer, Mobike’s general manager in the UK, said Islington is a good fit for the bike-sharing scheme because the borough has a "strong cycling culture".
"Islington is an important milestone in growing our presence in London," Pyer said.
The schemes differ from London's Santander Cycles – commonly called Boris Bikes – in that they do not use docks. Instead, riders use a mobile app to locate and unlock bikes, and can leave them at recommended sites around the city.
Ofo announced on Monday it will work with the London Cycling Campaign, a cycling charity in the capital with 12,000 members. The charity will advise Ofo as it rolls out the 150,000 bikes it plans to make available in the coming years.
Speaking during a visit to London in early November, Ofo co-founder Zhang Yanqi said the fleet of bikes will include "e-bikes", or motorized bikes powered by electric batteries. The company plans to bring some of them to London next year.
Zhang said he would like to see bike usage in London on a par with levels in Amsterdam. Currently, around 2 percent of all journeys made in London are made on bicycles, compared to 30 percent of journeys in the Dutch capital.
In September, Mobike entered a partnership deal with British Cycling in a bid to inspire two million people to get on a bike by 2020.