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Bike-sharing company sued for 'inadequate' locks after boy's death

A boy had broken the lock of an Ofo bike and was riding against traffic when a bus ran into him.

Young people ride the Ofo bikes on city street.  In the

Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Parents of a boy who died in an accident while riding a bike belonging to Ofo thinks the Chinese bike-sharing company should take responsibility for its locks.

The 11-year-old victim died in China after a coach crashed into him while he was riding against traffic, Chinese media reports. He was too young to access an Ofo account on his phone or cycle on public roads, but was able to open the mechanical lock on Ofo's bike. 

The boy's parents claim that the Ofo bikes' locks are "inadequate" and have taken Ofo to court, demanding RMB 8.78 million (or $1.3 million) in compensation. They argue that Ofo should take the blame because its bikes are left unsupervised and anyone can access them. The bikes pose a "great hidden risk to safety," according to the parents, since the victim and three of his underaged companions were able to unlock them.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the growing bike-sharing market, which has made unicorns out of Ofo and its rival Mobike. Bike-sharers are not unfamiliar with cases of vandalism and other misuse such as users breaking the locks and indiscriminate parking. These problems also occur in other countries including Singapore and the UK.

Chinese internet users have responded to the story on Weibo, China's Twitter-esque platform. Most comments take Ofo's side, saying the victim's parents are "using the deceased child to get money," and questioning why Ofo should be blamed when the victim committed a crime in the first place. One adds sarcastically that they should perhaps sue the country for building roads that are "too tough."

An Ofo spokesperson declined to comment on the case due to "pending litigation," but added, "Public safety is a top priority for us -- we are committed to ensuring that our users are safe, and we endeavor to ensure users are riding in accordance with local laws and regulations. We are also exploring options to further deter unsafe and underage riding."

First published July 25, 4:41 a.m. PT. 
Update, July 26 at 9:45 p.m.: Adds comment from Ofo.

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