Dockless vs. Docking Bikeshare Showdown in San Francisco

When Ford GoBike took over Bay Area Bike Share last year and promised to expand the number of bikes ten-fold, they entered into an exclusivity contract with San Francisco. So why is the city going to issue a permit to a competitor?

October 17, 2017, 1:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Ford GoBike

paul.wasneski / Flickr

"San Francisco’s transportation agency is preparing to issue its first permit to a competitor of Ford GoBike, potentially threatening a contract between the Bay Area and the $65 billion Ford Motor Company," reports Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez for the San Francisco Examiner on October 10, 2017.

JUMP, a division of Brooklyn-based Social Bicycles or SoBi, "could offer as many as 1,000 bikes to San Franciscans to rent should the permit be finalized."

But that permit allegedly runs afoul of an exclusivity contract Ford entered into with The City, along with its administrator of the bikeshare program, Motivate [also Brooklyn-based].

Ford GoBike is regional, with locations in San Jose and the East Bay cities of Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley, as well as San Francisco, which partly explains the intervention of the Bay Area's regional planning agency.

Though no entity has formally sued another, the possible threat of legal action from Motivate and Ford has allegedly driven the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to begin a “dispute resolution process” between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and Bay Area Motivate LLC, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

JUMP's entrance into San Francisco has academic roots

"The limited rollout is part of a UC Berkeley study to see how people choose their mode of transportation, funded by a $735,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration," reports Laura Wenus for Mission Local on June 27.

JUMP bikes are in their early days, and this week’s rollout is a modest 100-bike endeavor that isn’t yet open to the public, though that is a goal for the future. Instead, Social Bicycles staff have been reaching out to local businesses and nonprofits to offer memberships to people living and working in places where the program is starting out.

The cost is seven-cents per minute, just over $1 per 15 minutes, and that's important to the study, which is about mode choice and pricing.

It would appear that SMTA opened the door to this conflict when they passed new regulations, authored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, last March for bikeshare services that don't use docking stations, adds Rodriguez of The Examiner. JUMP applied for a permit under those new regulations.

Why did SFMTA approve these regulations? They were worried about an invasion of dockless bikes from China-based Bluegogo bikes, reported Rodriguez last January (posted here).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 in San Francisco Examiner

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