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San Mateo bikeshare company calls out SF for exclusivity contract

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Dockless bike-sharing service JUMP has been granted a permit to allow users to rent electric bikes through mobile phone apps in San Francisco. (Courtesy photo)

A recent negotiation between San Francisco’s transportation agency and a bikeshare operator for exclusive access to The City’s citizens is drawing rebuke.

San Mateo-based LimeBike, a tech-enabled bikeshare company, is decrying the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency for its exclusive deal with Social Bike’s JUMP to rent dockless electronic bikes in San Francisco.

SFMTA granted the permit Tuesday, which allows JUMP to be the sole provider of bikes that can be rented by mobile phone app and left on any sidewalk in The City without a dock.

SEE RELATED: SF grants first-ever permit for dockless ‘e-bike’ sharing

The exclusive contract for docked bikeshare belongs to Motivate, operator of the iconic blue Ford GoBike system seen throughout the Bay Area.

“The SFMTA’s decision to award a sole-source contract to a non-SF Bay Area based company fails on all aspects of a transparent and fair review process, effectively eliminates all competition and limits the dockless bikesharing choices for San Franciscans,” Toby Sun, LimeBike CEO, said in a statement.

San Francisco already hosts a bikeshare fleet run by Bay Area Motivate LLC, which rebranded its service as Ford GoBike in June 2017, and promised 1,750 bikes available for rent at docks throughout San Francisco by the end of 2017, and 7,000 bikes by 2018.

But Ford GoBike’s relationship with San Francisco hit a bump in the road as SFMTA worked behind the scenes to grant permits to dockless bikeshare companies. At dispute was whether Ford GoBike’s exclusive right to docked bikeshare in San Francisco — where rented bikes are returned to docking apparati on city streets — also included dockless bikeshare.

After a private arbitration process between SFMTA and Motivate, the two entities crafted an agreement to allow just one dockless bikeshare entity — JUMP — permission to expand in San Francisco, effectively freezing out competitors like LimeBike.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said JUMP has demonstrated “a commitment to San Francisco’s priorities” of safety and equity.

“With JUMP being unique in their offering of electric stationless bikes, it could complement the pedal-based Ford GoBike system, which will continue to expand as we move forward,” Rose said.

Kyle Grochmal, a tech worker and active cyclist who critiqued the deal, told the San Francisco Examiner “this appears to be clear protectionism of Ford GoBike” that will “stifle sustainable transport innovation.”

Sun, the CEO of LimeBike, asked the SFMTA to conduct a public review of dockless bikesharing, seek community input, and reopen the permitting process, “instead of making a unilateral decision behind closed doors.”

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