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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?


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).


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)

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