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Lyft Takes over Ford GoBike (lyft.com)
143 points by mikhuang 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 160 comments



I wonder why bike sharing is still a thing in business world. Hasn't this business venture been proved to be a fiasco in China, where user base is larger in magnitude, operation cost is residual and virtually no regulation friction, compared to the u.s.? Why do lyft, uber and others think it is viable(profitable) in the u.s.?

Another thing beyond me is although the business model/development of this kind seems to be bound to fail, why they are still chased by enormous amount of capital.

My cynical suspicion is these so call tech start ups are just instrument of a grand new ponzi scheme in which a bunch of investors use borrowed money(from banks, insurance company and the likes) to set up a start up and increase the value of it(manufacture hype to justify the inflation along the way) and the sell to public, which is mainly pension funds, 401k, government backed institutions and so one, that is, ordinary folks.

I hope someone would correct me and shed some light on this matter.


Stepping back a sec, there's "classic" bikeshare (docked, manual), then there's (docked, electric) and (dockless, electric). Each of these has different pros and cons, though I agree docked, manual bikes aren't great.

Dockless, electric is a game-changer. JUMP bikes hit 20MPH in a few seconds, take less effort than will get you sweaty (critical for meetings/commuting) and you can take the bike lane. Then the vast majority of the time you just hook it up to whatever chunk of metal is nearby and you're done. It's the fastest way between almost any 2 points in SF and often the most convenient too.

At $2 for 30min + $0.07/min it was an absolute steal. At $3 I may have to think harder but if it makes the economics work, I'm still in. I basically stopped using Uber and pay $5-7/day for all the electric biking I need. Could I buy one for a years' fees? Yep. But I don't want to deal with the hassle of owning.


What I don't understand is that Lyft is suing the city of SF.

It literally should just take the Ford GoBike stations, and convert them into bike parking for only their brand of "dockless" bikes. Even if they don't have exclusivity over dockless bikes, having a monopoly over dedicated parking spots would make their brand of dockless bikes way more convenient.

Instead, scooters have taken over the city instead.


I struggle to justify the purchase as a whole, but I think one component of the value a company like uber or lyft gains from an acquisition like this is to have a stronger stake in my transportation mindshare.

If I'm opening their app regardless of which transportation method I end up using, I'm more likely to keep coming back and will frequently choose to move up a tier (scooter -> bike -> car) if the price is "just a few dollars more".

It's worth considering the data component as well -- there's a tangible benefit to knowing which mode of transportation people are choosing for which trips.


My 0.02c as a Citi Bike (NYC's bikeshare) subscriber: I wouldn't be surprised if there's a modest profit to be made in bike sharing, at least in NYC. I know quite a few people with a yearly subscription (either personally or via their employer), and I would consider paying for one personally now that I've experienced their convenience. I don't know how much money Citi Bike/Motivate actually makes here, although AFAIK they don't receive any public subsidies (other than free use of public space).

OTOH, I don't think that the e-bike/scooter companies will ever be profitable. I wouldn't be surprised if the people running those companies are equally cynical.


I don't have their unit economy data, but I'm still (stubbornly) skeptical of the profitability of bike sharing. One reason is the market depth, in the sense that most of the time it's just young, educated and often bourgeois people in metropolis, which is a tiny proportion of people, who ride bike for purposes other than recreational.


Here’s some numbers that contradict that.

“According to more than 1,600 participants who responded to the survey, 60% of San Diego Lime riders identify as Hispanic and 54% report an annual household income of $50,000 or less. Additionally, 1 in 4 Lime riders are 36 years old or older, with an average age of 31, and 16.5% of them have previously served or are currently serving in the US military.”

https://www.li.me/second-street/more-diversity-less-car-use-...


Yeah, I don't expect bike sharing to ever be profitable outside of (major) city centers. Maybe that's a good thing -- once we get over this stupid fad of monetizing basic improvements to urban life, we'll be able to buy the equipment for pennies on the dollar and run it as a public service ;)

FWIW, I think your analysis (young, educated, bourgeois) is spot on, and that bikeshare companies are completely aware. Check out this map of Citi Bike's availability:

https://member.citibikenyc.com/map/

If you're not familiar with NYC: it's only available in business, wealthly/middle-class, and rapidly gentrifying areas. To continue my baseless speculation: it wouldn't surprise me if Citi Bike's (hypothetical) profitability relied on only serving these populations. Reprehensible, and another reason to agitate for bike shares as an extension of public transport.


I'm guessing the "young, educated, bourgeois" demographic is the early adopter of most new technologies. If you wrote off everything that was primarily used by that demographic in its early days, you'd have missed out on the personal computer, mobile phones, digital photography, and many other things that are widespread today.


> If you wrote off everything that was primarily used by that demographic in its early days, you'd have missed out on the personal computer, mobile phones, digital photography, and many other things that are widespread today.

Not writing off! I'm in that demographic. But let's call a spade a spade.

That being said, I think there's a substantial difference between PCs/cellphones/digital photography and bikesharing: the former were also adopted as business interests, while the latter is just a luxury or employment perk. PCs and cellphones reshaped the office, digital cameras reshaped newstelling and photojournalism; I find it hard to believe that bikesharing-qua-private-service will be doing much reshaping.


One issue with commuting using public transport to a large tech campus is traveling to meetings and lunch places during the day. You can walk 10-15 minutes or use the company shuttle, which takes +20 minutes to be in another building on time. If you came by car, you can drive 2-5 minutes and spend 1-5 minutes parking. With bike, it's 5 minutes door to door. Providing e-bikes for in-campus travel would do some reshaping, as it can reduce need for parking space and would allow for more efficient use of time.

Not as big as cellphones obviously. Still something.

People who travel to client sites in dense urban environments may have even more interesting numbers.


Is walking 10-15 minutes (especially in a generally nice climate) really a big issue? I hear scooters and bikes mentioned a lot for those cases where people might need to travel a mile. Most of the time, I'd consider having to walk a mile or so to get from Point A to Point B a feature rather than a bug. Certainly I had to regularly walk that sort of distance around college campuses and never considered it a particularly big deal--and I didn't attend schools in nice weather locations.


They are quite useful when you're getting off at a bus/train station and need to travel the last mile.


I think these services can be profitable without being fully mainstream. Even if only 5% of daily journeys within a city are made by shared bikes it's likely possible to optimize asset allocation (how many and where) and revenue model to eek out a profit. More importantly these services have positive externalities (reduced traffic and pollution, better health of riders) so we as a society should root for them.


Public transport, like public roads, healthcare and education, are critical to the viability and profitability of almost any other enterprise. As such, it is logical to subsidize them and take profitability out of the equation.

This works very very well for first world Western societies.


I think bikeshare programs have been very successful in cities where they are monopolies and partially run by cities. My experiences with bikeshares in NYC, London, Hamburg, Berlin, and DC have all been great.

The places where they have become nuisances are largely those that have been flooded with multiple competing (usually dockless) systems, because it turns out that you don't need a large capital investment to create a lot of junk sitting idle that gets in people's way.

I think bikeshare systems should be municipally owned (or at least municipally regulated). For me, the real killer app would be one that lets me get a bikeshare in any city.


Just on this - Hamburg in particular has a system where it's free to use for up to 30m for subscribers to the service, which is super cheap.

I believe it's run by the local authority, and at such a level its easy to explain why it's much more likely to be economically viable. The state also has to deal with the externalities associated with other forms of transport (traffic, noise, pollution etc.), as well as the health consequences of its citizens. Additionally, it's not-dockless - which I think massively reduces the nuisance on everyone else.


Yeah, Hamburg's system impressed me the most of all the places I've been, even though the quality of the bikes is not great. I went to CycleHack (bike-themed hackathon) and DB gave us a bunch of StadtRad data to play around with. It turns out the Hamburg system has the highest usage in Germany by some distance, in large part because of the free 30 minutes you're given.

I think the system is still docked though, isn't it? IIRC, you don't have to physically attach your bike to a docking station when you're done, but you are required to park within a certain (small) radius of a station to end your trip.


Exactly - it's like "flexible" docking. You have to dock it in areas, but there's some grace if there's no stations left. Seems like the best of both worlds from my perspective.

I absolutely don’t understand why cities let their streets be literred for free by dockless bikes. I really hope at least the politicians involved got a kickback :-/.


Cities spend a lot of money trying to improve public transportation and reduce traffic. Dockless bikes and scooters can help alleviate those issues. So I can understand why a city might decide to take a hands off approach (at least initially) to let these programs get off the ground and prove out the concept.


But it's okay for them to be littered by cars?


Cars are ticketed or towed when not left in specifically designated areas.

Nobody is "littering" the streets with cars. You just don't agree with the specifics of how the government has allocated the physical space resources under its control so you see it that way.


Consider the emission and noise "litter" cars generate too, I would much rather see a few scooters lying around the place than breathe in diesel fumes everday. Really it's just a temporary issue, a bump in the road to emission-free cities.


I'm not convinced it's a temporary bump, though. Space is at a premium in large cities, especially pedestrian/cycling space. As long as bikeshare companies are allowed to use this space for free and wash themselves of responsibility for the negative externalities, I don't see the nuisance and clutter going away anytime.

Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely on Team Ban Cars. But I think that recent unregulated dockless schemes have demonstrated that access to street/sidewalk space is the limiting factor for these companies, and it's sensible to restrict this access somewhat.


Perhaps cities should take simple first steps to regulate without overburdening bike/scooter shares. Portland has designated spots in the downtown core that are reserved for car shares (not any specific company but you can't park your personal vehicle there). Maybe one every 4-5 blocks. Why not do the same for bike share?

We have a docked system already but Lime scooters litter the sidewalks all over town. Why not remove a few car parking spots and require scooters be parked there? One spot could hold many scooters and keep them off the sidewalks.


This may be easier said than done, but converting roads into shared spaces may be an answer to that.

London for example are phasing in stricter low-emission areas, which should technically mean less cars will be passing through. Eventually, they could re-purpose roads so that the primary function of them is for pedestrians, bikes, bike/scooter storage etc rather than 4+ lanes of car traffic.

That is why I believe it is temporary anyway, it seems natural that cities will head this way.


Without knowing the actual logistics, just speaking as a user. I see bike sharing being somewhat popular where I currently live (SF -- mostly JUMP bikes. Not sure about GoBike, the bright red jump branding is too "eye-grabbing" to ignore). I have no idea if it can be profitable or not, but as an end user it is a nice option to have!

Maybe lyft wants to use it to strengthen their brand perception. They have bikes too = they are environmental friendly! Also play the marketing illusion that they are everywhere, as essentially people will be moving around the city riding lyft branded bikes.


Bike sharing is still a thing in China, but they’ve definitely scaled it back. It was getting a little out of hand with hundreds of yellow bikes per city block, half of which were broken, littering the streets. The newer generation of bikes are also more robust, making it less likely for the bike to be unusable. On a recent trip to Beijing I still saw a healthy number of people riding the shareable bikes.


I use docked, manual bikes in the city of Vancouver. It costs less than the bike storage fees in my building for unlimited one hour trips (and for longer trips you just dock and undock again.) So I sold my bike long ago and just keep using the bike share system. It's faster than a taxi to get around downtown. Pretty useless in the winter though with all the rain.


"I hope someone would correct me..."

s/grand new ponzi//

The capital is cheaper than ever and so is the hype.


There is already people who make money off of bike-sharing: https://www.northdata.de/nextbike+GmbH,+Leipzig/HRB+21178

Just not the big names


Nextbike have some very shady business practices. Don't ever have a negative balance with them. They won't tell you and will proceed to threaten you with legal action a year later. Happened to me over £3 (which later became £10 as they don't accept payments below £10).

They also don't comply with GDPR. After confirming several times they have completely deleted my account and any reference to my email, I still get marketing emails from them every now and again.


The service is valuable since it reduces travel times for those using public transit and those going to place near their homes by replacing walking.

Hence, as long as vandalism is not too much of a problem and thus the service can be provided cheaply, it should be profitable.

There is also a natural moat since once you are subscribed to the service with the most bikes you have an incentive to stick with it.


People in the US have more disposable income. In some cases there is less competition in the US.


I think ideology plays a larger role than profit. Many people in the American financial world are Randian extremists. They like various "sharing" services because they operate outside regulatory frameworks.


Same.

Lots of dumb money in the market too. Reminds me of Crypto before each collapse.


Was reading about some bike sharing startups in India raising millions of dollars (Altero ~$3.5M, Rapido $50M) and felt the exact same thing today morning.


FWIW, I know of a bike sharing startup that found profitably by charging cities and municipalities for the service as an urban amenity.

The unit costs from Lyft’s S1 showed that bikes and cars were roughly equal revenue to Lyft on a per ride basis.


My thoughts exactly. Tech companies going public will be the credit default swaps of the 20's, mark my words.


The money in this market is in subscriptions. Recurring revenue from just a small percentage of all possible users can pay for a lot of bikes and it's pretty reliable revenue as long as you don't alienate customers too much.

I've been a Mobike subscriber for a year now (in Berlin). The bikes are crap (i.e. cheap, in need of maintenance) but they are everywhere and I see it as saving on gym cost (hard work to ride one). But, if I need to get from A to B, I get one because I already payed for it. I probably payed them around 100 euros or so over the last year. I just renewed for 3 months for 24 euros. Every time I do this the price seems to change. This gets me unlimited 30 minute rides. After that they charge 1 euro per additional 30 minutes (tip, lock and unlock seems to work). I consider this good value. I don't have to worry about bike repairs, bike theft, or leaving my bike in a dodgy area. As soon as I lock it, it's not my problem.

I've done over 1200 km on mobikes in the last 12 months. Even in the winter when the weather is less nice, I still used them enough to make it worth the subscription.

The back of the envelope math is pretty interesting. If you have 10K users like me that's about 1M revenue. For a city like Berlin (4M inhabitants), you can probably do better. At 100 euro per bike, 1M buys you 10K bikes. I have no idea what these things cost per year but both the upfront investment to flood a city with bikes and setting up the support organization (maintenance mainly) are not that high. I'd say if they shoot for recurring revenue from around 20K users in a city like this, they ought to be very profitable. They have plenty of capacity to improve utilization as at this rate most bikes are not in use most of the time.

The main issues I've seen with competitors is that they think too small. Something like Mobike only makes sense if you can find one without effort. A lot of the failed startups in this space did not have enough bikes or too complex bikes (they break). Launching with a few hundred bikes is pointless. Everybody that did this in Berlin is gone (ofo, byke (with a y), lime, etc. Mobike did this right. They flooded the city with between 5K and 10K bikes. They are all over the place. I suspect the bulk price for these things is pretty OK. The main challenge is the growth strategy: they need recurring revenue.

I suspect Jump, which recently re-launched here, won't make it in Berlin because they don't do subscriptions, their operational zone is tiny, and they don't have enough bikes on the streets. The value proposition kind of sucks compared to Mobike.

Mobike looks like it might fail because their bikes are deteriorating and they seem to be in limbo now that their China based headquarters looks like they want to focus on just China. Apparently they are looking to sell off the European operations. I think it's an operation worth saving but it is going to take an investment to keep their existing user base and there's a bit of urgency because the experience is getting worse as the bikes get shittier.

The only way to mess this up is poor execution. There seems a lot of that in this business. But it's not an inherently bad business.


After Lyft/GoBike removed all their electric bikes, SFMTA decided to expand dockless bikeshare so people can continue to commute by bikeshare.

But Lyft decided to sue instead: https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/7/18657312/lyft-bike-share-l...


You're painting Lyft to be the bad guys because they're suing. It seems like SFMTA is trying to weasel out of a contract. Lyft isn't trying to prevent people from continuing to commute by bikeshare; they're trying to secure their ROI on their Motivate acquisition through the exclusivity contract with SF.

Have you read the contract terms in the article you're linking to? SFMTA is saying the contract was for 'docked bikes only' while Lyft is saying it was for a Bike Sharing Program, which could include docked or dockless bikes. Lyft does a good job describing what 'Bike sharing' is in that document so it will be up to the courts to decide if they're right.

-

“Bike sharing” is a public biking system concept that allows customers to rent a bike on a short-term basis from one section of a city and leave it in another section of the city that same day.

-

The Term Sheet provided, among other terms, that Motivate was to be the exclusive operator of any bike share system in the Participating Cities for at least ten (10) years.

The Term Sheet provided (emphasis added): “During the Term of this Agreement, Motivate shall have the exclusive right to operate a bike sharing program that utilizes public property and public right of way anywhere within San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, San Jose and Emeryville.”


I'm not sure I agree that the city has the moral authority to grant a monopoly on such a concept.

I like Lyft just fine and I especially applaud their efforts to expand into ebike-to-transit. But I also have a little trouble feeling sorry for a company that feels it has suffered a loss because its out-and-out regulatory capture scheme didn't pan out as successfully as it hoped.


You don't really have to feel sorry for them, you just have to recognise that they are entitled to what their contract says they are.

If you're against an exclusivity agreement (which actually makes a lot of sense when establishing a transportation network) then your complaint should be with the government, not Lyft.


It is pretty rich one of two billion dollar ride sharing tech companies who disrupted the corrupt taxi monopolies by illegally skirting regulations is now suing a city for damages over a contract they claim gives them a legal exclusivity to operate bike sharing. Same people who cried foul over the taxi token system and called it a monopoly...just goes to show what SV disruption is all about.


How did they "illegally skirt regulations"? Having read the california taxi and car-for-hire codes a few months before uber came into existance, I can tell you that in california, at least, lyft was breaking no laws. Uber, was, since it was called "ubercab" and you can't have "taxi" or "cab" in your corporate name without actually being a taxi or cab.


You can look up the number of civil and criminal violation for both uber and Lyft drivers by county throughout the country.

In Miami-Dade county Uber (drivers) for example racked up over $4M in fines between 2014-2016 for operating a ride for hire without being licensed, the way our statute works is the 1st charge is civil and 2nd is criminal. Lucy’s fines were less but still in the millions.

This is repeated in counties all over the country.

Nevertheless here is an article from six years ago showing California regulators fined a lift and shut them down for violating state law and lift had to retroactively work with regulators to remove the fines and continue operations. https://www.google.com/amp/s/techcrunch.com/2013/01/30/lyft-...


You don't have to feel sorry for Lyft, you just have to recognize that they got what they were entitled to what their contract says they were.

The exclusive right to use public property and the public right of way to operate a bikeshare.

Sidewalks are not public property--they are private property subject to public easements. Ergo, any other bikeshare may legitimately use sidewalks to operate their bikeshares.

BAM. Disruption. Who would have thought that other companies could play the same game Lyft did?


jMyles specifically is objecting to whether the city has the moral authority to sell that exclusivity. If I sell my neighbor's lawn chair to a passerby without my neighbor's permission, the passerby doesn't have a claim on the chair even though it's my ill behavior that was the cause. (This is true regardless of whether the passerby knew who the true owner was.)


> If I sell my neighbor's lawn chair to a passerby without my neighbor's permission

That isn't even remotely similar to the position a local government fills, however.


That point of the example wasn't demonstrate definitively whether the government has moral authority to sell exclusivity. (That's obviously disputable whereas the lawn-chair example is not.) The point was to show that Lyft isn't necessarily entitled to anything just because they have a signed a contract, as you suggested. Rather, you would actually have to dispute jMyles's claim on moral authority.


A widespread belief that transportation should not be competitive might explain why it functions so poorly.

How is this different from banning all but one automaker?


Europe


It's hard to interpret your one-word answer, but if you are saying that Europe can be held up as an example of success for this concept, then I ask you: which European city has successfully granted a legal monopoly to a single bike fleet?

I have done bike / scooter fleet apps in Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Malaga, Prague... I dunno, many other European cities - and I don't think I've ever come across one with such a policy.

Is this a normal European thing?


I'm talking about public transport.

Oh sure, public transit is way better in Europe.

But they didn't need to foment a monopoly for a bike fleet company to achieve better public transit, so what is the underlying point you are trying to get people to understand?


It's just one data point, but in Stockholm there were this bike sharing stands the city arranged in the centre via a procured agreement with a company. You would have to put the bike back in one of these stands after the rental. It worked quite well. No bikes laying around.

Nowadays, those are gone because of a juridical dispute over the procurement process between some bike sharing companies.

Instead there are these e-scooters littered everywhere. They are used mostly by tourists. I have no idea how the companies collect those and charge them with a profit. Most likely they don't. There were also some non city cooperation leave the bike anywhere bike sharing companies, that failed.

Maybe the main problem with communal bike sharing is that there has to be forced returns to designated end points, and only the city can "afford" (i.e. designate) public space for those places?

If you can put the bike where ever after the rental, it's just gonna be a mess.


Is it really fair to describe a 10 yr government contract as "out-and-out regulatory capture"?


“Government contract” makes it sound like the government is buying something. This the government granting an exclusive license to sell something to the public.


Very nicely said.


It's been tough to find a bike from them.

I've been a happy customer for years (first in DC and now SF), but ever since they removed their electric bikes, their docks have been empty so often that I can't count on using them any more.


What if I don't care whether Lyft gets their ROI and just want the best bike share possible?


You probably should be upset with the city for granting the monopoly in the first place. Now that they have, I'm not sure. Maybe there's a legal and ethical way to break the contract, but arguing dockless bikes aren't bike sharing probably isn't it.


you are just making the taxi medallion owner's point against Lyft and Uber


Yeah, the hypocrisy of this particular company getting (through acquisition) an exclusive contract and aggressively defending it didn't escape me, and I'd be happy to hear a good way to break it.


An exclusivity agreement might result in the best bike share possible. I don't want to pick up one company's bike and struggle to find a dock for that same company when it comes time for dropoff. Either one company gets exclusivity, or you end up with a huge amount of public space given over to redundant infrastructure.


Or you mandate a docking system that works for all the bike companies. Commoditize the docks using public action and then the free market can actually be free to solve the rest.


There ought to be a solution somewhere in this line. This alone won’t solve it as a company could flood the docks and block out competition that way.

Having multiple companies running taxis or P2P ride apps doesn’t matter so much as users as you can still hail a cab the same way and many P2P drivers use both Lyft and Uber, creating a good user experience.

However, that’s not true for these types of bike/scooter shares. The density of bikes/scooters is not so high that I’ll be able to pick just one app and have no problem finding transportation. And, if it was, we’d be tripping over them left and right.

Even interoperability between apps would be enough to solve this.


That is no reason to prohibit dockless bikeshares.


Blame your elected officials for signing the contract.


Better, blame the people who voted them in.

In modern times regulations are monopolistic power grabs by corporations, not the 'protection' they are intended to be.

It has been clear this happens, but people continue to elect politicians that regulate anyway.

Hopefully this is a traumatic event and teaches this community a good lesson. Our locals cities can take note, and their voters learn an important lesson that could otherwise harm national level elections.


Throw lots and lots of money funding at a bikeshare system so that the system doesn't need to care about profit. Hire competent, driven people for the system so they feel motivated to make the system better even without any financial incentives.

(Perhaps a little pixie dust would help as well.)


That's the same as "What if I don't care about killing other people and just want the most space for myself". A contract is a contract.


Unconscionable contracts, especially when one of the parties is a taxing jurisdiction, have no ethical force. I'm not certain that this was an unconscionable contract, but you have to at least make the argument. What consideration did the people of this municipality receive in exchange for this encumbrance placed on their liberty?


I read the contract as being about the use of publicly owned space for the docks. That seems more like a municipal corporation making a stupid agreement than it does an encumbrance on anyone's liberty. Rent private space for your bike racks...


Which might make sense in the city’s view that it is a deal about docks, not about all bikeshare.


No, a contract is not simply a contract. Contracts are only enforced when a court agrees they are enforceable. A court can declare a contract unenforceable for a variety of reasons, such as if it was ill-formed, one side was overwhelmingly more powerful, or the contract is against public policy (such as non-compete agreements in California).

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/unenforceable-contra...


And in this case, Lyft is simply trying to ascertain that the courts will uphold this contract. No need to hate on them simply for taking the city to court.

As is their right.

The city fucked up hugely by making an exclusive deal with Ford/Motive (acquired by Lyft).

If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at SF government.

The rule of law means that you don't get to change contracts you've signed.

It was a bad contract but SF Government does many bad things, like repressive zoning and banning scooters.

Go vote them out of the office.


>The rule of law means that you don't get to change contracts you've signed.

Technically you can if you wrote a clause allowing it or other conditionals. But we don't know the full contract and it's up to a judge to interpret it seems.


> The rule of law means that you don't get to change contracts you've signed.

Actually, contracts get broken all the time, and the only recourse you can get for that sort of thing is a lawsuit.

This is by design.


They removed the electric bikes only because of a safety issue. The non-electric bikes are still available. I haven't read anything about a relation to this event with a dockless bikeshare expansion.


I wouldn't defend the SFMTA They make SF objectively worse by being pro car (no lime, bad public transports)


I was in SF this week and had a chance to try this out. They have 0 (zero) e-bikes despite their app has a column to list the count.

They also force you to pick up the bike from designated racks and drop-off at designated racks which is a pain in the ass.

On the other hand JUMP has a fully e-bike fleet, but bikes were impossible to come by. I parked a JUMP bike that had full battery. An hour later I came back and the app didn’t let me unlock it (reason unknown to me). It seemed like things are really glitchy.

I found the entire bikeshare situation in SF to be miserable, in brief. Scooters are no different.

It’s funny to see that Seattle were like this 4 years ago. Now LIME and JUMP dominate Seattle with fleets entirely consisting of E-bikes. They are super ubiquitous, and there’s no shortage of them, no “glitches”, and no need to park them at a designated rack.


>They also force you to pick up the bike from designated racks and drop-off at designated racks which is a pain in the ass.

I mean it's pain in the ass when I have to move the crap from the front steps of my building or out of the driveway because people aren't courteous their dockless transport widgets. I'm alright walking a little ways to dock a bike/scooter as a user, but I'm firmly against any company or city that lets users dump crap on the streets without penalties. It's littering.


Believe it or not, this doesn't happen in Seattle. Sure there was a month or two when people were treating bikes like shit, because they were new, but now the conventions have been established and people are more respectful. What you're worried about happens rarely in Seattle.

Assuming you live in SF, I'm not sure why you're not worried more about the people peeing on your wall, tossing their shoes or random garbage on your driveway more. Bikes being dropped off at a public sidewalk sounds like less of a problem than these.


I'm in Los Angeles where we have Lime scooters all over the place. It's not rare, it's been a daily occurrence.

I can care about more than one thing at a time. Human refuse in my streets is a problem I deal with, and so is dockless transit.


You're talking about cars right?


Even worse when someone in a wheelchair can’t get to the train because people can’t bother to put it back in their designated spots allotted to them in the station plaza. It’s 10 feet away literally.


The Ford e-bike fleet got pulled due to some bikes experiencing too strong a braking force on the front wheel. They've been working on a redesigned e-bike and that will be coming soon.


The Ford e-bike fleet got pulled because $15/month for unlimited access to e-bikes was untenable and the few, bad bikes was good cover to pull them.

When they come back they'll be $3 for the first 20 minutes just like the Uber bikes in SF now.


Interesting speculation, but wrong since the new Bay Wheels pricing page shows monthly and annual memberships are still available.


It's all subject to change. The e-bikes haven't launched yet.

Yes they have. You can ride them in San Jose.

> some bikes experiencing too strong a braking force on the front wheel

Was that actually confirmed or just alleged?


They said as much in an email to subscribers of the service (of which I am one.) That said, I do understand there will be skepticism around the nature and timing of pulling the fleet. They did send out a survey in October of 2018 asking for feedback on the e-bikes and I do specifically remember a question asking if respondents would be willing to pay more for e-bike access. Take that for what you will.


Thanks. (I was actually wondering if the customers were just overreacting more than I was wondering if Ford was looking for cover.)


It's the SFMTA's fault. They were way too conservative with ebikes launches. Signed an exclusively contract with a company that couldn't deliver. They shut down most of the scooter shares. And Jump bikes (the best option in my opinion) hasn't been allowed to expand so they're nearly impossible to find. You can look on a map many evenings and not find a single Jump bike in SOMA.

End result, people going back to Uber/Lyft to get around. Shocking that traffic in SF is as bad as it's ever been.


This hasn't been my experience at all. There are almost always e-bikes at the Ford stations (per the other comment maybe this was a one off issue) and the Jump bikes work just as well in SF as Seattle in my experience (no shortage of glitches in Seattle).


There haven’t been ebikes at any station for several weeks because they pulled them all over a front brake failure. They also pulled them in NYC.


Jump bikes strongly follow commuter pattern, e.g. if you're going downtown in the morning or back at 5pm, you won't find any but if you're doing the opposite (or midday ride downtown) then, of course, Jump bikes are plenty.


Might be. I experienced no e-bikes for 4 days in a row while I was there just now. I also saw a ton of people using GoBikes during this period, none were e-bikes.

JUMP bikes in SF didn’t work for me most of the time. I would see one, but it wouldn’t let me take it. It worked about maybe 2 out of 6 times I tried. And as I said, the one I just locked with full battery and came back after an hour just wasn’t unlocking without a reasonable error message either. It makes me think there’s a secret reason they don’t let people unlock the bikes (they also don’t show up on the map).


My wife and I use Ford GoBike every day and are quite happy with it. It's probably the reason we still don't have a car.


Why doesn't the city just run it's own scooter/bike share? Seems like it would exist in the same domain as things like MUNI and in theory would allow the city to make a profit instead of LYFT/UBER etc.


Because they can let Uber/Lyft/et al do it, charge them a tax, and have none of the operational overhead or expenditures.


Some cities do. Denver has Denver B-cycle, and they are giving out 5280 free annual passes this year (not sure if they do this every year). The non-free option is still a fraction of the costs of the for-profit private companies. There are also a plethora of e-scooter brands though and I see them more often than bikes.

Boston has Bluebikes (e: seems like it's a partnership with Motivate?), also pretty cheap. A lot of people I knew in Boston had some kind of discounted rate through their employer where they got unlimited complimentary 30-minute rides.


Motivate isn’t exactly rolling in money. It’s essentially a non-profit.


Clearly you haven't taken the MUNI on a regular basis. The last thing we need is an incompetent government agency taking over yet another method of transportation.


I like these commute options that make it easier to get around but starting at $2/ride seems a bit high. If I were to use this twice daily for 200 days a year, I'd be looking at $800/year! I'd rather buy a bike in that case, and just use the bikeshare for one offs.

I've never used a GoBike, but are those prices real & what are the typical usage patterns?

Edit: I see, there are monthly and yearly plans that make it much more competitive with ownership. Great!


I've used these bikes in San Francisco several times on visits, they are great for getting around the downtown area. Public transit is 2.50 per ride ($3 cash starting July 1st), so it's cheaper as long as you are in their service area. The one thing is you're limited to 30 minutes before surcharges apply.

You used to only be able to purchase 1-day, 3-day, or 5-day passes, it was about the same price as long as you used it at least twice a day. At $2 per ride, it's much more flexible, so you can choose transit or bikes depending on the weather or whatever.

I see you've updated your post, but for completeness I'll list their plans (from https://www.lyft.com/bikes/bay-wheels/pricing):

Monthly no-commitment is $15 and you get unlimited 45-minute rentals. If I go work downtown for a week even, I'd get this. 45 minutes is great for a little after work exploration. When I'm in SF for business, I often bike somewhere after work (along the Embarcadero, Market street, South Beach, or around Chinatown), then drop off the bike, walk around some more, get food, then get another bike back to my hotel.

Edited to add: looks like they now have docking stations in the Haight-Ashbury, so you could get a bike to Golden Gate park, switch bikes, have 45 min around the park, and switch again to get back downtown.

Annual is $149 per year for unlimited 45-minute rentals. That is really cheap for a maintenance-free bike whenever you're in the city. I used to commute with my bike on Caltrain, and this would make it not worth the hassle (depends on how you get to your home station and how close your office is to one of their docking stations).

Also, monthly and annual plans might be paid for by your employer as part of your transit benefits.


I used to subscribe to mobike in Singapore but between poor redistribution and no maintenance whatsoever it quickly became a negative experience. Bike shares only work if they are dockless, well maintained and most importantly abundant throughout the whole service area at all times.


The docking is a bit of a constraint (need to know where they are and walk to/from the nearest ones), but they existed before the GPS-enabled IoT dockless bikes were developed. They also had some advantages such as not needing a data plan on your phone (sometimes recommended on the social-media notification addiction threads).

I used the SF bikes multiple times over several years, and I did run into empty docks once or twice. But usually bikes were available and usable. More than once I ran into the person who maintained and moved bikes. They had a trailer with 2-3 bikes pulled by an e-bike--I thought that was a really great idea (as opposed to a van that ran n gas and would block the bike lane during loading and unloading).


The last time I renewed, the annual membership was <$100

I decided to take the membership and use the bikes for short trips within SF. I figured I've saved more that $100 in Uber/Lyft rides in the last year (+ it's healthier, better for the environment etc)


I'm an avid cyclist (I commute and race), so I didn't think I'd made much use of a bike share membership, but it's been amazing. Any time I'm out and about without my bike and need to get somewhere that's only a mile or two, I just hop on a bike share bike; I don't have to wait for a bus, or pay Uber/Lyft rates, I just go. My annual membership is less than $8/mo.


I cycle around SF constantly. However, I am very reluctant to actually leave my bike anywhere as it will more than likely get stolen. That is the reason I will use a bike share at times.


I have the annual membership. It's dirt cheap and the marginal cost is none. The day passes and single rides are intended for visitors.


You can get monthly membership and it's free to take trips.


There’s also a subsidy for low-income riders. I have my own bike, but it’s nice to hop on for a quick errand or if I’m going somewhere sketchy where I don’t want to leave my personal bike out.


Citibike in NYC (also operated by Lyft) costs $2 per ride for using an ebike. And that is if you are already a member. Non members pay $5. There is no membership allowing unlimited ebike usage.


In SF for whatever reason there is no surcharge for the electric bikes


I remember Lyft partnered with Ford on self-driving, but does that have anything to do with Lyft choosing to take this over? Bike shares seems outside the core-competency of Lyft. Is it simply for marketing?

I'm confused why the company would take this on as part of some larger strategic plan.


"Go-bikes" were never run by Ford. It was a start-up called Motivate[0] that licensed the Ford brand for their bikeshare service. Lyft bought Motivate last year, and is just now getting around to the rebrand.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivate_(company)


Thanks for pointing that out -- I had no idea and it's really surprising to me. Why did they license the Ford brand? Is the Ford name really that attractive to the Bay Area bikesharing market? Would've expected it would hurt more than help, if anything. Is it just: all brand recognition is good brand recognition?


I think Ford paid to have it put there (as advertising). In NYC it is Citi Bike share as advertising for CitiBank.


Oops, that makes a lot more sense. Thank you.


its more that ford sponsored it. ford bought in around the same time they bought chariot i think. it seemed like they were just testing out a bunch of things related to transportation


Their mission: 'improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation' allows for more than just cars and ride sharing. From what I've read recently, they also care greatly about being carbon neutral as well as embracing greener options for getting around. Bikes and eScooters seem to fit right into that plan.


Bikes and scooters will take many rides from ride sharing services. If Lyft wants to be a single source for all transit, they have to participate in micro-mobility.


Bike shares seem far closer to the core-competency of Lyft than Ford. Uber owns Jump, so this doesn't seem strange at all to me.


and Ford owns Spin.


Ford GoBike have to be some of the worst, most ill-maintained bikes in the city. The product quality is terrible compared to the competition - half the bikes have mechanical issues, the electrical bikes were hazardous.

I was an early subscriber given how cheap it was, but I often struggled to find a bike that worked.


I pay $50 CAD a year for bike share across Toronto. This seems pretty expensive, to be honest.


How are you paying $50/year? Bike Share Toronto costs CAD$100/year. If you took advantage of their Presto card discount, that used to be 50% off for the first year of membership, recently reduced to 30% off the first year: https://bikesharetoronto.com/presto/

Bike Share Toronto is heavily subsidized by the city and Ontario, and operates at a loss: https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2019/02/28/bike-share...


I pay 39€ a year for unlimited 30 minute rides in about 8 German cities. electric is extra and has sadly a very limited availability.


That is until Lyft gets bored with it and axes it like Lime did to their bikes. Now my town is vacant if any rental bikes, despite their promise of fixing our "last-mile" problem to our train station.


> That is until Lyft gets bored with it and axes it like Lime did to their bikes.

These seem to be be "docked". Wasn't Lime's problem that they were "dockless" and wound up being trash everywhere?


That might have been an issue, but Lime switched to the e-scooter game and probably found out that the bikes costed more in maintenance. The scooters last months before they break and probably need relatively simple parts for repair, but bikes probably broke constantly and it may have been hard to get enough people to repair them.

You could be right, though, and I'm only guessing.


I can't read this seriously knowing that cars take 1000000x more space


It doesn't matter how little space they take up when you have to step over them every morning ...

My comment was that I thought that Lime stopped because they couldn't make the dockless work because the bikes wound up as trash everywhere. Your comment brings nothing to that discussion.

I have no problem with these services taking up a parking space every block or two in order to put in a dock.


if you could park them on the road it wouldn't take space on the sidewalk. I do not want these docks, nobody using scooters or bikes want these docks.

That's because cars are way more useful. They have a much longer range than bikes or scooters, are fueled more easily, carry cargo, transport multiple people at once, can run on both gas and electric, have air conditioning, stereo systems, safety features, etc. Bicycles are obsolete in every way and aren't practical for most commuters. You bet cars take up 1000000x the space of bikes.


This reeks of suburban provincialism. Bikes are more useful in an urban context. On an individual level they are faster because they don’t get stuck in traffic and you don’t have to pay for parking. On a macro level cars are fundamentally incompatible with density because there is literally not enough space in a city for everyone to store and drive their cars.


> This reeks of suburban provincialism.

This reeks of intelligence signaling, and isn't an argument.

> an urban context

Yes, in an urban context, where one lives close enough to work and other conveniences, and one happens to have a shower in their office building. Most people don't live that close to work and they don't want to constantly show up to work sweaty. Bicycling certainly does work for same people, but it's not practical or sustainable for most people.

What do you think is going to happen in a scenario where most people are bicycling everywhere? They'd potentially spend just as much time on the road as they would in car traffic, have to constantly dodge other bikes and vehicles, and city officials would make them pay for parking.

People don't want to experience riding a bike day in and day out. Cars are a bestseller for a reason. If riding a bicycle was as obvious as you think it is, more people would be doing it.

> On a macro level cars are fundamentally incompatible with density because there is literally not enough space in a city for everyone to store and drive their cars.

And yet most cities are able to make it work with cars.


> Yes, in an urban context,

You made the claim that bikes were obsolete in “every way”.

Most cities do not make it work with cars. In actual cities (not giant suburbs like Houston or Phoenix) a large fraction of the population does not drive or own a car.

> What do you think is going to happen in a scenario where most people are bicycling everywhere? They'd potentially spend just as much time on the road as they would in car traffic, have to constantly dodge other bikes and vehicles, and city officials would make them pay for parking.

Do you really not grasp the fact that bikes take up less space than cars. If people switched from cars to bikes there would be far less congestion.


The nice thing about the contract is they are obligated to provide the service.


Another nail in the coffin of Bird?


I don't think so. On average, bike share trips are much longer than scooter trips (~1-3 for bikes vs ~0-1 for scooters) and e-bike trips are even further. With this in mind, I think it makes more sense to see scooter competition as walking than bikes or e-bikes.

Can't find the source I read this in originally, but will keep looking.


A bike share being owned and operated by one of the biggest threats to cyclist safety is, well, it’s something.


I would guess from my own experience as a frequent ride hailing passenger that Lyft/Uber drivers are less of a threat to cyclist safety on average than regular drivers.


I bike daily in San Francisco and that hasn't been my experience. My mental heuristics for risk to injury for me are, from least to most dangerous:

- City buses. Slow and predictable.

- Normal passenger vehicles.

- Lyft/Uber. Will often swerve right in front of me while they're pulling over. (Presumably because they're watching their phone to make sure they're dropping off in the right spot, or watching the sidewalk looking for their next fare.)

- Large pickup trucks. Not sure if it's the ride height that gives you the illusion you're further away or just a personality trait of their drivers, but a disproportionate number of my close calls are pickup trucks blasting by at high speed with no clearance.

- Old beater cars with dents/stuff falling off. These drivers can behave very unpredictably.


Can't imagine how you formed that impression. TNC drivers love to perform the "Crazy Ivan" and they love to double-park in bike lanes.


The increased risk is passenger's opening the door right as you bike past or jumping out at a stop light or something. with cabs you know the risk so raise your awareness but with ridesharing could be anycar as you normally can't tell from the rear whose ridesharing.


A good heuristic is that they're parked illegally in the bike lane.


Except when they swerve and park in bike lanes.


I see it as a good thing that will shine more light on cyclist safety.


My wife used to work at a cycling advocacy organization that was often asked for feedback on bike share implementation, Ford included. I was skeptical, too, but what they told her was that they've already reached market saturation in urban areas, so if they want to grow their customer base, they have to look at forms of transportation that aren't automobiles.


I recently read that Uber/Lyft keeps even 75% of money for themselves. I wonder if there is an opportunity for third large ride-sharing app where business model would be based on bidding and company would keep much lower fee, just to cover overhead. So you want to go from point A to B, all local drivers are contacted and they have 45 seconds to bid who would charge less. Requester would see how much sorted by less $ and also ratings so he/she can chose someone more expensive but with better ratings.

Such model would kill Uber/Lyft overnight - they would not be able to adjust to that model because then their stocks would be cut down 95%. However, it is a win-to-win situation to both drivers and ride-takers - drivers get paid more and more stays in their pocket, while takers can chose if the ride is affordable, and at over 50% cheaper than what Lyft/Uber charge, it sure would be!


You're getting downvoted because this is both a bad business idea, and a bad product idea.

Uber and Lyft have proven that drivers and riders don't want to think particularly hard. They want a magic button that either a) makes a car show up or b) feeds them customers.

As for the business side, there's no good reason to think that this would even cut costs on Uber's side -- they still need to maintain all of their lobbying costs, their server and engineer costs to maintain the bidding app, their marketing costs, etc.




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