It won’t be too long before dockless bikes hit NYC’s streets: The New York City Department of Transportation has revealed more details about its dockless pilot, due to launch sometime this month, including the companies that’ll be participating.
According to the DOT, the operators for the pilot will be Motivate, Citi Bike’s parent company (and now owned by Lyft); Pace, which rolled out in Rochester (and is live in several other U.S. cities); ofo, which started in China and is now available in Seattle and Atlanta, among other cities; the Uber-owned Jump; and Lime, which already has bikes in Yonkers and White Plains.
And the pilot won’t be for just traditional two-wheelers; Jump and Lime will also bring pedal-assist bikes to the the Rockaways, the area around Fordham in the Bronx, and Staten Island’s North Shore. Those bikes will be available after July 28, when legislation allowing for their presence on city streets goes into effect.
The pilot rolls out (heh) in the Rockaways sometime this month, and will be in the Bronx and Staten Island by the end of the month. A Coney Island pilot will start “later this year,” since neighbors’ concerns about tourists and street crowding led the DOT to hold off until after the summer.
The way dockless technology works is pretty simple: An app is used to find nearby wheels and to unlock the ride; once you’re done riding, you park the bike in a designated spot, and you’re charged a fee for the amount of time you spent on the bike. (The fee structure for NYC’s pilot has yet to be announced, but the DOT says that each company it’s partnering with charges $1-$2 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.
Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen, but the DOT will be watching closely; the agency is going to look at the “safety, availability and durability” of the bikes, as well as how much they’re being used and what riders have to say about the experience, before determining how they’ll move forward with a permanent dockless program.
“Each of the five selected companies are leaders in this emerging field, and in the course of the pilot, we will see how they perform in diverse New York City neighborhoods that have never before seen bike share,” DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “We strongly encourage New Yorkers to get out this month to explore some great neighborhoods by bike—and give us feedback on their dockless experience.”