Ford GoBike riders in San Francisco get better prices and supply due to competition from other services. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

No bike share monopoly in San Francisco

Competition is good for riders

I’ve supported Ford GoBike since day one. I attended the launch celebration and biked with Jane Kim on the first official ride. Since then I’ve spent hundreds of hours advocating for the system’s expansion.

Now Lyft, the owner of Ford GoBike, is threatening to sue San Francisco so it can have total bike share exclusivity in our city. As one of bike share’s biggest advocates, I’m heartbroken. Lyft’s efforts to cut out competitors is bad for San Francisco.

John Zimmer, Lyft’s cofounder, painted an optimistic vision for Lyft Bikes last year saying “Lyft Bikes and Scooters will be our most affordable transportation options, and will extend mobility to communities that have historically been underserved.” And yet in New York City, where Lyft has a monopoly on bike share, a single ebike trip can sometimes cost more than a Lyft Line. That’s not the case in San Francisco where Lyft has to compete with JUMP. Ebike rides have remained significantly cheaper here.

Compare Lyft’s operation record for Ford GoBike. Due to a safety issue with braking, Lyft had to remove all its ebikes from service. Since then, many stations have been consistently empty, leaving riders stranded. But ask any Ford GoBike user and they’ll tell you that bike availability has always been a problem. Ford GoBike isn’t meeting MTC goals for bike availability because Lyft is not staffing bike rebalancing at the level necessary for a dependable service. That leaves users stranded and forced to seek other options such as rideshare. It’s disappointing that Lyft is advocating for a monopoly when it’s unable to deliver on its current service agreement.

Consider also that Lyft has consistently brought more ebikes to San Francisco than New York. And when they reintroduce ebikes to their San Francisco system in June, users in New York City will have to wait. Lyft knows they have to do better here because competition demands it.

When Lyft suggest a monopoly is good for San Francisco, I don’t buy it. I’m proud the SFMTA has taken a stand by opening applications for an expanded dockless bike share program that has the potential to see up to 11,000 bikes across multiple providers. The SFMTA bike share plan will replace thousands of daily car trips with bike trips, provide coverage in all neighborhoods, and keep costs low for all San Franciscans.

The future is bright for bike share in San Francisco if we allow healthy competition. I ask Lyft to reconsider a frivolous lawsuit against our city and invest in making the Ford GoBike system reach its full potential for the benefit of everyone.

Brad Williford is the co-founder of Our Bikes, a bike share advocacy group.

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