Lyft has now completed its acquisition of the company behind Citi Bike, and they’re not wasting any time ensuring that they’re a major player in the bike-sharing world. They have already struck a deal with New York City to expand Citi Bike through a $100 million investment. The plan will “more than triple” Motivate’s required 12,000 bikes to 40,000 within the next five years. We should point out that they’re already not meeting that, and this will more than double the coverage area to 35 square miles. This will include a mix of conventional and pedal-assist e-bikes, and will also include 12 new valet stations.
Of course, the City is asking for some obligations on top of this. It’s ‘enshrining’ a reduced fare program for some low-income residents, and it’s reserving the right to test dockless bike sharing outside of Citi Bike’s expanded coverage area. Lyft will keep Citi Bike’s exclusive rights, but it will also have to pay for operating expenses needed to “improve and expand” the system. There are some that aren’t pleased with this. It appears that this might shut out competition, and that the City is backing only one company. Riders will be able to access other bike sharing companies in the outer boroughs, but you’ll have to deal with Citi Bikes when you’re in a downtown area.
Now that this deal is complete, however, Lyft becomes the largest bike service provider in the United States. Which is a big deal for a company that hopes to have the largest dock less bike fleet in the world (outside of China).
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg made the following statement:
“As a safe, sustainable, and affordable way to get around, cycling in New York City is growing faster than any other mode of travel. And with today’s announcement, riding a Citi Bike will be an even more convenient way to get to a vastly larger share of the City.”
Unlike public transportation, Citi Bike doesn’t receive any public funding and must rely on money from private companies. The $100 million cash infusion from Lyft will go towards “capital expenditures”—which means both immediate fixes, like getting more bikes on streets, as well as long-term improvements.
The acquisition of Motivate also gives Lyft exclusive domain over the city’s bike-share system, although a press release notes that the city may still conduct its own pilot programs of “dockless bike share services outside of the expanded Citi Bike service area”—a fine point, but one that may prove important as the city winds down its initial dockless bike-share pilot (which includes operators like the Uber-backed Jump, and Lime Bike). That program is still underway in areas not currently served by Citi Bike, including the Bronx and Staten Island.
Overall, I think that we are seeing a move to use more sustainable methods of transportation. Whether that is public transit, light rail, or another form of underground transportation, this whole industry is changing. People need to get around and they want to be able to do that without having to rely on gas-powered vehicles for the rest of their lives. I think this will help people of New York City to be able to get around and that is some positive news heading into the holiday season.