New York is now ever-so-slightly closer to getting its own dockless bike share program. The Department of Transportation announced that 12 companies responded to its request for expressions of interest (RFEI) in piloting such a program in the city, notably in far-flung neighborhoods that Citi Bike, currently the only bike share program in the city, has yet to reach.
The companies vying for the DOT’s approval include some of the most prolific dockless proprietors—including LimeBike, Spin, and Ofo, each of which has a presence in other U.S. cities—along with the newly Uber-owned Jump, and Motivate, the company that owns Citi Bike.
The way dockless technology works is pretty simple: An app is used to find nearby wheels (a bike or, in some places, a scooter) and to unlock the ride; once you’re done riding, you park the bike, and you’re charged a fee for the amount of time you spent on the bike. There are also payment plans, similar to what Citi Bike offers its users; in Seattle, for instance, Spin offers an unlimited monthly program that equals out to about $1 per half-hour ride.
There are definite benefits to going dockless, particularly in New York, where NIMBY-led fights over docking stations can hold up the placement of new bikes. But there are also drawbacks. As our colleagues at Curbed have reported, the lack of dedicated stations has led to fears of “bike graveyards,” or abandoned two-wheelers haphazardly clogging city streets. (In Seattle, the DOT recently began experimenting with parking spots for its dockless bikes to curb the problem.)
It remains to be seen if that will be an issue in New York; according to the DOT, their submissions are currently being evaluated, and a decision will be made by the summer. But in a press release, commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the agency is “thrilled” by the response.
“The robust response of dockless bike companies to this pilot is great news, which could allow us to move beyond the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods that Citi Bike now covers so well,” she stated.