Lyft announces it will acquire Motivate, the company behind Ford GoBike rentals

The hundreds of little blue rental bikes emblazoned with the Ford logo across San Francisco may soon be managed by the ride-hail giant, Lyft.

Lyft announced Monday morning that it has reached a “transformative agreement” to acquire Motivate, the company that runs Ford GoBike in the Bay Area.

The ride-hail giant promised to “put resources” behind pursuing growth and “innovation” in markets where Motivate operates.

Through its exclusive non-compete agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, more than 3,000 of the Ford GoBike blue rental bikes have sprouted at street-side docks across the Bay Area. The bikes are rented through a mobile phone app.

The Ford GoBike service is expected to expand from 3,650 rentable bikes Bay Area-wide to 7,000 bikes by the end of 2018.

“Lyft and Motivate have both been committed for years to the same goal of reducing the need for personal car ownership by providing reliable and affordable ways to move around our cities,” said John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder and president, in a press statement. “Bringing together Lyft and Motivate will accelerate our collaboration with cities and deliver even better experiences to our passengers and riders.”

Lyft’s most recent valuation pegs the company as worth $15.1 billion, according to Tech Crunch, and it recently raised $600 million in financing. The company has increased its U.S. marketshare to 35 percent, largely built on recent public relations stumbles by Uber, according to Tech Crunch.

Motivate enjoys an exclusivity contract with the MTC to provide docked bikeshare in the Bay Area. Randy Rentschler, director of legislation and public affairs at MTC, told the San Francisco Examiner that while he doesn’t anticipate major program overhauls right away, Motivate’s future plans for bikeshare in the region is clear.

“For the folks that use bike sharing now, Ford GoBike, you won’t see any significant change,” Rentschler said. However, “Over time, you’ll see a lot more electric bikes, a lot more horsepower.”

While Rentschler clarified “I’m not the guy making decisions,” he said “I know that’s the path Motivate was on. Now that they have a lot more financial backup, it’s likely they will do that quicker.”

Yet that may pit Lyft against its familiar rival, the ride-hail giant Uber.

In April, the dockless e-bike rental company Jump was acquired by Uber. Dockless bikes can be rented and then left on sidewalks, unlike “docked” Ford GoBikes, which are left in docking stations on public streets. Last year, before Uber acquired Jump, Motivate and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency came into conflict when the SFMTA processed permit applications for Jump to offer e-bike rentals in San Francisco.

After legal arbitration by the MTC, SFMTA ultimately awarded a limited pilot permit to Jump.

How having two multi-billion dollar ride-hail giants duking in the bikeshare space will remake the local market, “It’s hard to tell,” Rentschler said.

However, “What’s fact is there are some really big players entering this bikeshare space, people with international reach, with serious money, with very high valuations,” he said. “While there’s no announcement now about what changes will be afoot, it’s a natural assumption to make that these guys aren’t coming in as a hobby.”

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
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Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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