The city’s Department of Transportation is entertaining the prospect of allowing a new bike-share business that could give Citi Bike a run for its money. According to Crain’s, the DOT is preparing to issue a request for expressions of interest that will give companies that operate dockless bike-share systems to explain how their models could work in New York City.
“DOT is evaluating the viability of the newest generation of bike-sharing technology in order to expand the system,” said a spokesman for the agency in a statement. “This includes meeting with the industry, though our immediate focus remains the continued expansion of [Citi Bike’s] Phase II, which is ongoing.”
The DOT has been in talks with dockless system operators for the past year while also negotiating with Motivate, who owns and operates Citi Bike, to expand its services. While Motivate could also develop a dockless system, the company wants to retain exclusivity in New York City and not have to compete with brands like LimeBike, Spin, and Ofo— who have all expressed interest in bringing pilot programs to the city.
While the benefits of a dockless bike-share program are that it can be deployed in a matter of days rather than months, doesn’t require parking spaces for docking stations, and gives users the ability to conveniently locate a nearby bike from their smartphone, it does have its drawbacks. Critics are concerned that dockless bikes will be left in inconvenient places, much like the problems that the program has brought to cities like Washington D.C. and Shanghai, China.
In the meantime, Phase II of Citi Bike’s expansion is adding 140 new stations and 2,000 new bikes across Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan while the Bronx and Staten Island remain excluded from the program, though local officials are working to change that.