• Follow us


What a Bay Area Dispute Says About the Future of Bike Share

There are few things better than riding a bike: breeze in your face, legs pushing languidly, mastering physics to balance, miraculously, on just two wheels. So it’s a shame that the bicycle is caught in the messy world of San Francisco politics, complete with interagency grousing, rivalry between billion-dollar public companies, and plenty of official letterhead.

The dispute, while in many ways particular to the Bay Area, could push cities to change how they think about dealing—and contracting—with the new breed of bicycle- and scooter-share companies seeking access to public sidewalks. For advocates prodding cities to promote cleaner transport options like bicycles, scooters, and public transit, it’s a reminder that their values don’t always align with those of the private companies with which they’ve sometimes allied.

To understand the San Francisco dispute, you first need to understand the changing face of bike-share. What was once fierce competition among startups is now often competition between newly public giants. In April 2018, Uber acquired the dockless-bike-share company Jump for $200 million. A few months later, Lyft began to acquire its own bike-share company, Motivate, for $250 million. Motivate is the largest bike-share operator in North America and has exclusive contracts to run programs in cities like New York (CitiBike), Washington (Capital Bikeshare), Chicago (Divvy Bikes), and the Bay Area (GoBikes)

For a time, San Francisco treated its contract with Motivate as truly exclusive. In 2017, the city’s transit agency told the since-expired Chinese dockless-bicycle company BlueGogo that it couldn’t operate in the city. But the city changed its position later that year when it decided to launch a dockless-bike pilot program. Motivate objected to what it viewed as a violation of its exclusive contract. The city and the company ultimately compromised on a limited, 18-month dockless pilot program; Jump won the first permits. Today, 500 Jump bikes operate in the city, to strong demand: 63,000 riders took more than 625,000 trips in the first year of San Francisco service, Uber says.

Now the 18-month pilot is about to end, and San Francisco wants to make it permanent. This week, the city announced it would open a permitting process, with the goal of getting 10,000 to 11,000 shared cycles on its streets, a fourfold increase over what it has today.

But the commercial backdrop is very different than 18 months ago, now that Uber owns Jump and Lyft owns Motivate. Lyft is unhappy with the city’s plan to open up the bike-share permit process, even though the city says it anticipates 8,500 of the shared bikes would be Lyft’s GoBikes. In an April letter to city transportation director Ed Reiskin first reported by the San Francisco Examiner, Lyft CEO John Zimmer said the company had “invested millions of dollars to install bike station infrastructure for a large scale bike share system” that it might not be able to recoup without exclusivity. Zimmer asked for a new round of arbitration.

On May 15, the city told Lyft it believes Motivate has an exclusive contract to run “a docked, station-based bike-share program” in San Francisco, but not the exclusive right to operate a bike-share program. The regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which orchestrated the original Motivate contract, also weighed in, noting in a May 20 letter that contract’s definition of “bicycle” is “silent on any distinction between station-based and dockless bicycles.”

San Francisco cycling advocates worry the dispute may prevent the expansion of bike-share programs in the city, at a time bicycles could be booming. (After a woman on a GoBike was struck and killed by a truck in March, public officials committed to building 20 miles of new protected bike lanes in the next two years.) “More bikes are better, from our viewpoint,” says Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “If, in the end, this results in less access, that would be unfortunate.”

Brad Williford, another local bicycle activist, agrees. “I’ve seen how competition has improved the bike-share service in the city,” he says. “I’m really proud of the [city] for taking a stand.”

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said the company supports San Francisco’s decision to open up the permit process. “The evidence shows that riders win when bike-share companies compete in San Francisco,” the spokesperson said.

A Lyft spokesperson said the company looked forward to expanding its GoBike program in San Francisco and that Lyft would add its own dockless bikes to the system. “The most successful bike-share systems in the world are public-private partnerships underpinned by long-term private investment and a public planning process,” the spokesperson said.

The complicated governance issues with the Bay Area bike-share dispute are, in some ways, sui generis. Lyft recently won an expansion of its bike-share contract in Chicago, making it the exclusive operator of bike-share—docked, dockless, or electric—in the city. Despite a local lobbying press by Uber, Lyft reached an agreement through City Council to invest $50 million over three years to build out its Divvy program.

Even so, Uber is pressing to get its Jump dockless bikes into other putative Lyft territory. In New York, Uber lawyers have urged the city to create a permanent dockless e-bike program.

Those cities are, no doubt, watching the debate in the Bay Area—and wondering how they might use bidding processes to play multiple companies off each other, forcing them to compete on price and service. “It’s really going to change the game,” says Williford, the activist. “If San Francisco gets more from Lyft and Jump, that’s a really strong model for what New York should be demanding.”

Meanwhile, it’s an open question whether anyone can make money from bike-share. Both Uber and Lyft hope to become Amazons of transportation, one-stop shops for ride hailing, bicycles, scooters, and even public transit. But Lyft’s first quarterly earnings report, released this month, noted that it didn’t expect its bike- or scooter-share businesses to materially increase revenue in the short term. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, whose company released its first quarterly earnings Thursday, told investors that gross bookings for bikes and scooters “grew strong quarter over quarter”. But the company still lost $1 billion in the first part of 2019.

Corrected, 6-3-19, 3:40pm: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Lyft defended an exclusive bike-share contract in Chicago. The new contract expanded Lyft's exclusivity.

More Great WIRED Stories10 productivity hacks from WIRED staffWhat tech companies pay employees in 2019Facing the ubiquity of Fortnite in our kids' livesFeds busted the dark-web drug trade—and it's reboundingLA’s plan to reboot its bus system using cell phone data📱 Torn between the latest phones? Never fear—check out our iPhone buying guide and favorite Android phones📩 Hungry for even more deep dives on your next favorite topic? Sign up for the Backchannel newsletterRead More

Leave A Comment

More News


A Shitty Robot Tesla Truck, Facebook's New Cryptocurrency, 2019-06-18 18:02:35Catch up on the most important news from today in two minutes or less.

YouTube's 'Shitty Robot' Queen Made Her Own Tesla 2019-06-18 11:00:00Simone Giertz hacked her Model 3 into a ride she calls the "Truckla," and it does donuts.

Are E-Bikes and Scooters Doomed? 2019-06-18 09:00:00Opinion: China's e-biking masses offer a model for our struggling scoot-scape

Nuro’s Pizza Robot Will Bring You a Domino’s 2019-06-17 20:24:20It’s about half the size of a sedan, and for now it needs a chase car with a babysitter. For now.

Audi Recall, Shifting Alliances, and More Car News 2019-06-16 09:00:00Audi issued a voluntary recall of its E-Tron SUV; self-driving tech startup Aurora broke up with VW and joined up with Fiat Chrysler.

New York City Flexes Again, Extending Cap on 2019-06-15 07:00:00Officials want to extend the city's limit on the number of for-hire vehicles, and may consider a congestion charge.

Lamborghini Huracán EVO Sees the Future, Makes You 2019-06-15 07:00:00The super smart supercar predicts what you'll do next—and helps you make it happen.

The Strange Mating Rituals of Self-Driving Car Companies 2019-06-12 19:34:27Aurora hooked up with Chrysler on Monday, ditched VW on Tuesday, and doubled down with Hyundai on Wednesday.

Your Cadillac Can Now Drive Itself More Places 2019-06-11 09:00:00Cadillac's Super Cruise will shut itself off when the car reaches a tricky spot where a driver needs to pay attention.

Aurora's Latest Deal Will Be a Heavy-Duty Test 2019-06-10 18:20:53Startup Aurora is putting its self-driving technology into commercial vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, expanding its long list of partnerships

Audi Recalls Some E-Tron SUVs Over a Battery 2019-06-10 17:32:41The E-Tron competes against Tesla's Model X, as well as Jaguar's I-Pace and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz EQC.

Porsche's 911 Goes Hybrid With Vonnen's Shadow Drive 2019-06-10 07:00:00The aftermarket system adds an electric motor—and a whole lot of power—to the venerable sports car.

Automotive News Breaking

Trump says he'll have 'extended' meeting with China's 2019-06-18 10:31:09Confirmation of the meeting comes after President Trump repeatedly threatened to raise tariffs if Xi didn’t sit with him at the June 28-29 summi

Search suspended for missing auto journalist 2019-06-18 10:18:08The search Saturday focused on the Mokelumne River Canyon, logging more than 448 miles on foot, in addition to efforts via boat and helicopter.

VW steps up software push with 'vw.os' operating 2019-06-18 08:53:32VW said all its new models would use the "vw.os," platform and the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud by 2025.

Ford takes regulator for a spin in bid 2019-06-18 08:48:14Ford and other carmakers such as BMW and Toyota don’t want to lose the rights they gained in 1999 from the FCC for a system designed to lin

VW explores move from longtime suburban Detroit office 2019-06-18 08:23:23VW is exploring several options for its office north of Detroit. It could move elsewhere in the northern Detroit suburbs, it could develop a new offic

Nvidia partners with truckmaker AB Volvo for driverless 2019-06-18 07:27:25The deal to develop a self-driving system for commercial vehicles is a boost for Nvidia, which parted ways with Tesla last year. 

VW defends launch of high-priced 'mass-market' EV 2019-06-18 06:28:02VW said its ID3 will be an electric car "for the millions and not the millionaires." But the ID3 will not be immediately become a car for the masses

Freshened 2020 Lexus GX 460 gets new look, 2019-06-18 06:00:00The midcycle makeover for the Japanese brand's most rugged three-row SUV seeks to add to its appearance as well as its safety features for both on- a

How Ford dealerships in Canada helped bust a 2019-06-17 14:23:08Police say roughly 400 pounds of meth were prevented from circulating in Canada when staff at Ford dealerships across Ontario and Quebec began no

China, alarmed by recent fires, sets EV safety 2019-06-17 13:48:27Companies need to check for potential safety hazards with battery boxes, waterproof protection in vehicles, high-voltage wiring harnesses, as well as

U.S. traffic deaths fall 1% in 2018, preliminary 2019-06-17 13:00:09The overall traffic fatality rate was projected to drop to 1.14 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, the lowest rate since 2014, according to NHTSA.

FCA leans toward Trump as industry agonizes over 2019-06-17 11:53:51Fiat Chrysler, in written statements to regulators, said it agrees with one of the Trump administration’s central arguments: Stricter fuel-

Motor Trend

2019 Volkswagen Golf: Why I’d Buy It – 2019-06-15 04:00:56“What car should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would online editor Kelly Pleskot drive? Keep

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD Is More Truck for 2019-06-14 19:21:26Chevrolet has announced pricing for the 2020 Silverado HD, and despite offering greater capability and technology than the model it replaces, the heav

Refreshing or Revolting: 2020 Kia Telluride vs. Toyota 2019-06-14 16:21:37Kia finally entered the three-row SUV market when it introduced the Telluride this spring. One of its most formidable competitors will be the upcoming

Best Father’s Day Gifts for Your Car-Loving Dad 2019-06-14 13:45:31My first memory behind the wheel is of steering my father’s 1998 Ford Taurus down our little dead end street and turning into our driveway. Noti

What Car Should I Buy? MotorTrend Editors Pick 2019-06-14 09:30:36In today’s SUV-saturated market, cars—that is, sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes—are increasingly rare. Even so, that doesn’t sto

Hot Wheels ID Is the Classic Toy Reimagined 2019-06-14 09:00:26I can’t remember how I got it, but I can vividly recall my very first Hot Wheels. It was a red double-headed dragon on four chrome wheels. I rem

Here’s Every Tesla We’ve Tested So Far 2019-06-14 04:00:32We can largely thank Tesla for making electric vehicles exciting. From the original Roadster to the more practical and mass-market Model 3, Tesla hasn

2020 Mercedes GLB-Class: 5 Things You Should Know 2019-06-14 04:00:25At Mercedes-Benz’s press drive of its new 2020 GLS-Class (stay tuned for the review), the German brand used the opportunity to show U.S. journal

Tested: Is the Genesis G70 Still a Driver’s 2019-06-14 04:00:22Here’s a story you’ve heard before: “[Upstart manufacturer] creates sports sedan to take on the BMW 3 Series.” It’s a ta

2019 Honda Accord Hybrid: Why I’d Buy It 2019-06-14 04:00:09“What car should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would senior production editor Zach Gale drive

2019 Subaru Crosstrek Limited: Why I’d Buy It 2019-06-08 04:00:46“What SUV should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would associate online editor Collin Woodard d

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 and GLC 63 Review: 2019-06-07 18:01:26Midcycle product updates are tricky. Capital is typically limited, so you can’t do much with the sheetmetal or engineering bits. But you need yo

Automotive news - from

Damler Plant 56 at Sindelfingen goes 5G 2019-06-17 12:00:00Telefonica Deutschland and network supplier Ericsson is putting in what is claimed to be the world's first 5G mobile network for automobile productio

Renault again gives Zoe longer legs 2019-06-17 08:48:00Renault has given its little Zoe EV a third update with 52 kWh battery and an additional 100kW R135 electric motor option and boosted range to 24

VW plans 10% partial IPO for Traton unit 2019-06-17 08:31:00Volkswagen Group is planning a 10% stake listing for its Traton commercial vehicle unit. The IPO could raise up to EUR1.9bn for VW. Traton is VW's co

Continental Romania spends EUR27m expanding Iasi office building 2019-06-17 08:28:00Continental Romania said it was spending EUR27m to expand its office building in Iasi.

Bridgestone introduces lightweight tyre technology 2019-06-17 08:16:00Bridgestone has announced the launch of Enliten, a new light weight tyre technology claimed to reduce material use and rolling resistance, contribute

Unions agree to revised Renault-Samsung pay deal 2019-06-17 07:39:00Renault Samsung Motors agreed a wage deal with its labour union last week, bringing to an end months of industrial action which has resulted in produc

SAIC China sales slump 2019-06-17 07:11:00Chinese carmaker SAIC Motor reported a sharp sales decline in the first five months of 2019, of close to 17% to 2.47 million units, according to a com

Kyocera and BYD Japan to collaborate on EV 2019-06-17 07:09:00Kyocera and BYD Japan have announced a joint project to develop an integrated renewable supply-demand energy system for EVs.

JAC acquires Kazakhstan's Allur Group 2019-06-17 06:57:00JAC has successfully participated in the acquisition of the shares of Kazakhstan's Allur Group, marking the entry of the JAC Kazakhstan project into

Veoneer acquires Nissin Kogyo's interests in US VNBS 2019-06-17 06:36:00ADAS specialist Veoneer says it has signed a binding agreement with Nissin Kogyo, its joint venture partner in Veoneer Nissin Brake Systems (VNBS), pr

Nissan reports strong sales of e-LCV in UK 2019-06-17 06:25:00Nissan in the UK reports sales of its Nissan e-NV200 fully electric light van up by 200% in 2019 as more firms switch their light commercial vehicle (

Geely's LEVC spins van off range extender London 2019-06-17 05:54:00Geely-owned London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) - the latest name for Britain's main 'London Taxi' maker - has spun off a PHEV light van ba

Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.