Start spreading the news. A dockless bike share system has just landed in the Big Apple, giving locals and tourists alike more transportation options. A pilot testing program began this July 2018, in The Rockaways, and it will run for four months. Three more locations will follow: Staten Island, the Bronx and, later this year, the Coney Island. It is taking the program for a spin. New York City Department of Transportation officials are closely monitoring the pilot, and if all goes well, the city will integrate the dockless bike share system into the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Dockless Bike Share NYC, Tackling City Transportation Challenges

The city that never sleeps is catching up with the bike share trend. In one of the densest metropolitan areas in the world, this program can help tackle the city’s transportation challenges. With the installation of this new system, the city aims to provide affordable transportation for short-distance trips. It will also connect commuters to public transit networks. Currently, four bike share companies – Pace, Lime, Jump and Motivate – will take part in this pilot testing.

Historically, the city is no stranger to the bike sharing concept. Locals and tourists have been accessing bike sharing using the automated docking stations for short rides and solving the “last mile” problem. However, the city’s only existing bike share system, Citi Bike, is mainly concentrated in the borough of Manhattan, with Citi Bike’s expansion hindered by the cost of the docking system.

The success of this pilot dockless bike share program will allow other areas of the city to have access to a bike share system. It can ultimately help reduce road congestion and air and noise pollution.  This will significantly transform the New York’s transportation landscape.

The World is Going Dockless

Cities all over the world are adopting the dockless bike share system. With the increasing demand, private companies and government agencies are developing programs. They aim to cope up with the needs of the commuting public.

Dockless Bike Share Trend
Dockless Bike Share Trend
  • Call A Bike, a dockless bike rental system managed by Deutsche Bahn, operates Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Kassel, Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart.
  • Mobike, a bike-sharing system headquartered in Beijing, China, has been expanding its reach globally. The company has a presence in Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Italy, Germany and France.
  • In New Zealand, their first dockless bike share system – called OnzO – was launched in November, 2017.
  • Singapore-based dockless bike share company oBike has expanded to 24 countries, including Korea, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, and Sweden.
  • Beijing-based bike sharing company ofo has been growing a global presence. Its countries include France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In February 2018, the company rolled out a bike share platform with Texas A&M University in the United States.
  • The US has jumped on the bike-share bandwagon via startup companies such as Lime. Lime was founded in January 2017, in North Carolina,  fielding 125 bicycles. To date, Lime is available in 46 cities across the country and has expanded outside the United States.
  • Motivate, another US-based bike sharing company is now operating in key cities across the country. In July 2018, the company was acquired by Lyft, but will continue to operate as a stand-alone business. The NYC Department of Transportation has commissioned Motivate to take part in its dockless bike share pilot testing.

The growth and popularity of dockless bike share systems have even opened the door to similar programs involving motorized scooters. BIRD services multiple cities throughout the US, and despite a few legal hurdles, BIRD has begun to make its presence felt in the Big Apple.

The Challenges of the Dockless Bike Share System

The dockless bike share system is a breath of fresh air for highly-urbanized cities like New York. The rollout though has not been flawless. A number of problems have emerged.

Theft and vandalism are at the top of the list. Out of a one-hundred bike fleet set up in the Bronx, only eight were in service recently. To circumvent the system, users have used prepaid cards or taken improperly unlocked units. Some bikes have been with their GPS tampered with, while others had parts missing.

Some bike share companies are finding it difficult to keep up with losses, and are discontinuing service. Ofo pulled out of Washington, DC last July. Mobike is currently evaluating whether it is still sustainable to keep their operations in Manchester. In addition, the system has been criticized because of urban clutter – since the bicycles need not be parked in specific locations, units have been dumped carelessly on sidewalks, pavements and curbs. Some of the bikes end up floating in waterways or hidden in sheds, while some have been parked illegally on private properties.

Impact of City Planning

Regrettably, these problems are symptoms of far more serious issues: human nature and lack of city planning. While the bike-sharing industry is in its early stage in the US, policymakers should begin looking at the development of social rules in the use of common facilities (such as the dockless bicycles). Urban planners and bike share companies should also begin working together to make sure that city landscapes are ready to accommodate this new breed of mobility.

The dockless bike share system is not the problem. This system, if used right, can help ease traffic congestion, fuel consumption, cut pollution and encourage a healthy lifestyle. The arrival of dockless bike share system may have caught some cities unaware,  but is not too late to act swiftly before the system zooms past us.

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