A DOCKLESS bike firm has dramatically scaled back its Oxford operation, withdrawing its bicycles from large parts of the city.

Ofo Bike has emailed all its registered users to advise of changes to its operating area 'over the winter period' because the scheme has become too complicated to manage.

A map produced by the company shows the area where customers are permitted to leave bikes has been re-drawn with much of the suburbs now off limits.

The Oxford Times:

Apart from small pockets around Oxford Brookes University, the Kassam stadium and Templars Square shopping centre, the changes mean the distinctive yellow bikes will disappear from areas including Headington, Cowley, Blackbird Leys and Botley.

It follows a similar move by competitor MoBike which also changed its area of operation to focus on the city centre earlier this year, warning cyclists they could face a fine if the bike was left outside of the strict new boundaries.

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The email from Ofo said: "Some areas are not visited by our users and are unfortunately more complicated to manage by our teams.

"This change will provide a higher density of bikes and better service for the majority of our users."

A Chinese company, Ofo was the first dockless bike scheme to launch in Oxford in August 2017 and previously customers could leave bikes anywhere within the city limits.

In February it said areas such as Littlemore and Blackbird Leys had proven to be a 'unexpected success' with people using the bikes to get to college or the city centre.

But residents complained after the bikes were left littering the streets or dumped in parks and rivers.

The Oxford Times:

The changes leave only the blue Pony bikes operating in Oxford's suburbs after the original bike-hire scheme Oxonbike closed due to the competition.

Chair of Cyclox Simon Hunt said he thought the news was 'disappointing.'

He said: "It's a shame but I doubt we are seeing the end of the dockless bike craze.

"We've clearly been in the middle of a fiercely competitive battle between these firms and they are now changing their operations in order to survive.

"It's disappointing to see them pull out of areas that are already under-served for cyclists.

"These schemes are a really good idea and I think it's important for the city that they are allowed to flourish.

"But some people see the bikes as disposable. Clearly there has been a higher rate of theft and damage than expected."

The Oxford Times:

Blackbird Leys Parish Council chairman John Dillon said he doubted the bikes would be much missed on the streets of the estate.

He said: "It's a shame that the actions of a few have meant everyone loses out but I know a lot of people are sick of seeing them lying around.

"There were 15 taken out the pond in Spindleberry Park the other day, it feels like no one is taking responsibility for them."