November 15, 2018 04:13 PM Dockless bike-share pilot extended

Citi Bike, Jump Bikes and Lime get 90 more days to test their service in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island

To no one's surprise, the dockless bike-share pilot, which began in July with a four-month time line, has been extended by 90 days. All three operators are continuing: Lime in the Rockaways and Staten Island, Jump Bikes in the Bronx and on Staten Island, and Citi Bike in the Bronx.

Pace, which launched in the Rockaways alongside Lime, dropped out in late September; Lime expanded its service to fill the gap. The operators had different start-dates, so the three-month extension kicks in at different times for each of them.

A Department of Transportation spokeswoman said the extension is "for the purpose of further evaluation."

The pilot comes at a time of mounting tensions in the bike-share industry, which has become somewhat of a proxy battle between the two ride-hail giants, Uber and Lyft.

Lyft recently acquired Citi Bike parent Motivate, which as part of its contract with the city has exclusive rights to operate in most of Manhattan and the western portions of Brooklyn and Queens. Uber bought pedal-assist e-bike operator Jump Bikes earlier this year and has its eye on Lyft's territory.

The pilot also could be a prelude to the introduction of shared e-scooters, which are believed to have the greatest business potential of any of the so-called micro-mobility modes. E-scooters are currently illegal in New York City.

All three players are either operating scooters or testing them out in other markets. A fourth, Santa Monica, Calif.-based scooter operator Bird, has set up an operation in Manhattan and has been meeting with regulators and city officials.

A major concern right now is that Citi Bike, with Lyft's deep pockets, finally will be able to continue the expansion of its station-based system—and possibly add dockless bikes to the mix—potentially shutting out the new operators. A phase-three extension of Citi Bike's footprint, which would have brought the service to Staten Island and the Bronx and deeper into Brooklyn and Queens, stalled last year, partly over questions about costs.

The city recently renewed talks with Lyft over the Citi Bike contract, according to an insider.

"Citi Bike has been a huge success in our city and has dramatically expanded under the mayor's leadership," a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote in an email. "Discussions about Lyft's contract are ongoing and not final. We have nothing to announce at this time."

A Citi Bike spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the talks.

In the meantime, Jump Bikes and Lime would like to expand their current operating zones in the pilot, which some insiders consider too small to give a good reading of how well the bike services will work. But all three operators—offering their services over different time tables that make direct comparisons difficult—say that so far the program has been a success.

Lime has served 70,000 rides—and 20,000 riders—at its two locations during the life of the program. Jump counts 15,000 trips in the Bronx and 20,000 on Staten Island, and says its bikes have averaged five trips per day in the Bronx and two on Staten Island.

Citi Bike says nearly 1,000 riders have tried its dockless bikes in the Bronx.

"The pilot has been enough of a test case to show that this is something that really works," said Gil Kazimirov, general manager of Lime. "The next phase is figuring out how to expand it beyond a couple of service zones."

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