Bike sharing companies compete for riders in changing US market

World Today

When it comes to getting around town, bike-sharing has become a popular choice.

But starting up a program in the United States has run into some obstacles, especially in an increasingly competitive market.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports on how companies are putting a new spin on the program.

In San Jose, California, Ford GoBike celebrates a U.S.first – a bike-sharing program that give users air miles on Alaska Airlines when they purchase a ride.

It’s good for the environment, good for your health and now it provides even more benefits for your wallet.

While big name companies put their name on the bikes, the technology is developed by a company called “Motivate.”

Motivate said it operates two-thirds of the total bike-sharing fleet in the U.S.

“I don’t think there’s any question that biking in urban centers in the U.S. has been late to come,” said this cycler. “One of the things that you are seeing is that cities in the U.S. are investing in safe biking infrastructure. and increasingly, as technology changes, it makes it more and more flexible for people.”

It costs $3 for a 30-minute ride from station to station, though special programs can run as low as $5 a year for low-income residents.

Motivate has worked closely with each city to determine the best location—something Chinese bike-sharing company Bluegogo failed to do when it began deploying its bikes on the streets of San Francisco.

That irked the city, as well as competitors like Motivate who played by the rules. Eventually, Bluegogo pulled out.

“Our fear in the bike advocacy community is that nobody will succeed and everybody will cannibalize each other,” Shiloh Ballard, president of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition said. “But on the flipside is that you have all these people competing, which is an indication that there is something there.”

The newest wave of competition comes from startups like Spin. Spin offers dock-less bikes at cutthroat rates – just $1 for 30-minutes of riding.

A solar-powered unit unlocks the bike with the swipe of a QR code while GPS tracks where it goes.

“Dealing with theft and vandalism is fortunately baked into our business model, a certain amount of loss and attrition that we comfortably accept,” said Euwyn Poon, Co-founder & President of Spin.

“What we’ve done in this business model is remove the onus on the user to return it to a certain place and place the onus on ourselves as a company,” he explained. “We have sprinter vans running around re-balancing bikes. That’s the new thing in the bike-share economy where we have hourly workers that go in and pick up bikes from areas of low use and bring them back to areas of high use.”

In operation for less than a year, Spin said it has more than 3000 bikes in nine U.S. markets, such as Mountain View and Seattle.

Spin’s bikes also collect data on every ride – information that’s shared with cities so they not only know where each bike is, but also where to plan bike routes down the road.