Chinese bike-share start-up hit with lawsuit after death of minor

Chinese bike-share start-up hit with lawsuit after death of minor
PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - The parents of a child who died in a traffic accident while riding an Ofo share bike in Shanghai have sued the fast-growing start-up for financial compensation.

In the first Chinese case of its kind, the lawsuit tests the legal responsibility of China's booming share-bike companies when underage children access their bicycles, which have become ubiquitous across the country's major cities.

The victim, a fourth-grade primary school student aged under 12, managed to unlock an Ofo bike on March 26 and was riding along with friends before being struck and run over by a bus, according to Chinese media reports. The child died after being taken to hospital.

Following an investigation, local traffic police determined that the child was riding down the wrong side of the road and bore "primary responsibility" for the accident, the reports said.

Chinese traffic regulations stipulate that children must be at least 12 years old to ride bicycles on public roads.

But through their lawyer, Zhang Qianlin, the family said Ofo should bear responsibility given its bikes were unsupervised and readily available in public spaces and that its bike locks were inadequate, given the victim and three other underage companions were able to unlock and use the bikes.

The bikes posed a "great hidden risk to safety", the family said, the state-run China Youth Daily reported on Saturday.

There have been at least two deaths and more than 10 injuries involving children riding Ofo bikes, the report said, raising questions over increased government scrutiny and regulation in the fast-evolving market.

"We hope that given share bikes have already become a fixture of city transportation, that (ride-share) platform responsibilities are clarified, push for government regulation, and prevent similar tragedies from repeating," Zhang told the newspaper.

Ofo and main rival Mobike did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Bike-share users in China numbered around 20 million in 2016 and are expected to reach 198 million by 2021, according to a report by research firm Research and Markets.

Ofo, known for its trademark yellow bikes, has expanded to 100 cities worldwide since its founding in 2014, 70 of which were added this year alone.

Earlier this month it raised more than $700 million in its latest funding round.

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