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Chinese bike-share company eyes SF; City Hall threatens legal action

Bluegogo, an app-based bike-share company, plans to launch in the city within days, but local politicians are stepping in to put the brakes on it

Bluegogo bikes lined up on a street covered with autumn leaves.
City Hall is seeing red over Bluegogo’s pending San Francisco launch.
CYC Nick, Instagram

Bluegogo sounds like the quintessential Silicon Valley startup, an app company that says it wants to “disrupt bike-sharing in the US” with the likes of solar-powered “smart bikes” and a little Series A funding.

The fact that Bluegogo is actually based in China rather than the South Bay is a technicality.

“It’s reverse Uber,” the company’s VP of American operations Ilya Movshovich told Curbed SF, referring to the cross-Pacific route of Chinese and California tech companies pollinating each other’s neighborhoods.

The company claims it operates 100,000 bikes in four Chinese cities. Private bike-sharing firms are common in Asian and Europe, but for some reason comparably scarce in American markets.

A photo posted by (@wwslll) on

Bluegogo eschews turn-in stations; users can simply leave the bike at bike racks. Onboard GPS helps riders locate nearby cycles on their phones, with the quoted American rate at less than $1 per mile.

San Francisco will be Bluegogo’s first city outside of China. “It makes sense from a startup standpoint, and SF is a bike-friendly city,” says Movhovich. A company spokesperson notes they’re floating on about $20 million worth of venture capital.

But first, of course, they must clear City Hall. At a press conference this morning, Supervisor Aaron Peskin described a seemingly grim near-future of tens of thousands of stray bikes littering the streets, with accompanying photos of Bluegogo bike pileups in other cities.

The legislator complained of companies that “disrupt first and ask permission later.” Peskin threatened fines and pointed new laws if the company goes ahead with its planned launch.

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Movhovich promises that there will be no piles of bikes in SF. “It’s legal to launch that way in China,” he says, “but we’re not using that same model in San Francisco.”

The Chinese version of bike-sharing is a bit haphazard. Writing for Forbes, Ben Sin suggests that San Francisco and Bluegogo are having a bit of a culture clash moment: “The idea of being able to hop a bike anywhere, ride without a helmet [...] weaving through crowds then leave the bike wherever” is not so unusual in China. But American lawmakers go ashen at the thought.

Bluegogo’s had a January 23 rollout scheduled, but now the company says it cannot confirm whether or not that’s still the target date.