Dubbed “Uber for bikes”, the world’s first and biggest dockless bike-share company, Ofo, has launched in Adelaide.

The Beijing-based enterprise, which currently operates in 13 countries, selected Adelaide as the first city in Australia to try its bike-share scheme via a carefully managed pilot program. The staggered national rollout is part of an ambitious plan to operate in 20 countries by the end of the year.

The station-free bike-sharing initiative allows users to hire bikes through a smartphone app. Once downloaded, the user signs up to an account that allows them to locate the nearest Ofo bike. A QR code is scanned to unlock the bike, and you’re off.

Bike hire is $1 for a 30-minute ride, with single trips capped at $5. And unlike Adelaide's current public bike scheme – run by BikeSA – you don’t have to return them to a specific location.

An initial fleet of 50 yellow bikes will be deployed across the city and North Adelaide before expanding farther out.

The bikes use GPS-enabled “geofence” technology to guide users to park in preferred parking zones. The app will mark the zones on a map of the city. Users can also report a missing helmet or faulty bike via the app. Taking cues from Uber’s star-rating system, Ofo has a “credit system” that will reward users who follow the rules while deducting points from those who don’t.

A similar initiative from Singapore-based company oBike, which launched in Melbourne in June, has had its share of trouble. Bikes have been damaged, lost, and ended up in portaloos, trees, and floating on rafts in Albert Park Lake. There have been so many thrown into the Yarra River, they had to be fished out en masse.

“We are determined to be the first bike-share platform to launch in Australia the right way, with sufficient local resourcing from day one to ensure that all bikes are maintained, re-distributed appropriately, have a helmet and are parked properly,” said Scott Walker, head of strategy at Ofo Australia.

“Having identified Australia as a market with significant transport gaps and a clear need for better short-distance point-to-point transport solutions, Ofo is carefully rolling out our service, one location at a time, in collaboration with government and cycling stakeholders.”

Last year the state government and city council struck a funding deal to upgrade Adelaide’s cycling infrastructure and free bike-share program. Following the launch of Ofo this week, the two government bodies will now dedicate $1 million to building higher-quality segregated bikeways in Adelaide, InDaily reports.

The news follows the announcement last month of a new east-west connecting bikeway in the CBD.