Won't You Ride My Bicycle?

Dockless bike-sharing is coming to NYC this summer

City Terrain East Transportation
LimeBike, another dockless bike-share company, debuted their bikes in Los Angeles. (Courtesy Flickr/waltarrrrr)
LimeBike, another dockless bike-share company, debuted their bikes in Los Angeles. (Courtesy Flickr/waltarrrrr)

Are bikes slowly taking over the streets of New York? Extra Citi Bikes are being rolled out ahead of the L Train shutdown, ride-hailing company Lyft has acquired Motivate and its bike sharing company Citi Bike, and now the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) revealed further details for their dockless bike-share pilot.

Following a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) from the DOT last year, 12 companies vied for the opportunity to pilot a dockless bike-share program in the city. DOT announced earlier this week that Lime, JUMP, ofo, Pace, and Motivate have been chosen to roll the program out.

Bikes from those companies will be supplemented in each community by pedal-assist models capable of reaching 20-miles-per-hour courtesy of either JUMP or Lime. The first bikes are expected to arrive from PAce and Lime in mid-July in the Rockaways, Queens, followed by bikes from JUMP, ofo, and Lime in central Bronx and Staten Island later in July. Coney Island will also receive bikes from Motivate later this year, timed to avoid the worst of the summer crowds and construction concerns. The areas chosen for the pilot are out of Citi Bike’s current reach, and each neighborhood will receive at least 200 bikes.

As the name suggests, dockless bike-sharing does not require a permanent docking station for bikers to return their rentals to. Instead, riders use an app to find and unlock a bike nearby; once the ride is finished, the rider leaves the bike on a sidewalk, and a fee is charged according to the amount of time spent riding. While each company has a different pricing structure, the DOT estimates that a 30-minute ride will only cost $2.

Misplacement of the bikes—and having streets end up as ‘bike graveyard’ where abandoned bikes litter streets—is a concern that other cities are grappling with. Other regulatory issues surrounding ridesharing and similar transportation alternatives have plagued cities, from Uber to autonomous vehicles to e-scooters. However, it appears that concerns will be assessed during the pilot, as the DOT will “carefully evaluate companies’ compliance with requirements around data accessibility and user privacy” as well as look at the “safety, availability and durability” of the bikes themselves.

The DOT’s announcement comes at a time when ride-hailing companies are changing the transportation landscape. In an interview earlier this year, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi claimed that he wanted Uber to be the “Amazon of transportation,” expanding the range of first-and-last mile solutions. Two of these dockless bike share companies are now owned by major ride-hailing companies—JUMP is owned by Uber and more recently, Motivate (parent company to CitiBike) was bought by Lyft. It’s unclear how dockless bike share will fit within New York’s transportation system and regulations, but DOT will be evaluating the sustainability of the dockless program before moving forward with a permanent program.

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