|Ready to ride. Photo courtesy of Spin
In September, dockless bikeshare arrived in Washington, D.C., the city that had already proved that a bikeshare station system can work in North America. Suddenly, in addition to the red Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) bikes, there were the yellow ofo bikes, orange Spin bikes, silver and orange Mobikes, bright green and yellow LimeBikes, and red Jump! ebikes. Gear Prudence compared the new D.C. bikeshare options to a bag of Skittles.
These new bikes are so-called “smart bikes” that are unlocked using each company’s apps. The different brands provide options from single-speeds and 3-speeds to ebikes. The Washington Post test rode four of the bikes and provided its first impressions here.
An initial issue with dockless in D.C. was where to park them. They were found inside Metro stations, CaBi docks, blocking sidewalks. David Alpert suggested that the best place to park them was between tree boxes between the street and sidewalk. We’ll see if a parking etiquette takes hold.
The big picture question for D.C. and other cities, however, is whether dockless bikeshare is here to stay. Is this really a thing? To investigate, we sent some questions to Spin. They were gracious enough to provide some answers.
Howdid Spin get started?
Spinis the first company to debut the stationless bikeshare concept inAmerica. Dockless bikeshare did not exist in the U.S. prior to 2017so it was important to build relationships and educate localgovernment on the benefits first. For example, since there was nopre-existing regulations/permits for dockless, Spin worked with theSDOT’S Kyle Rowe (who they recently brought on to their teaminternally) to create a landmark permit to allow this innovation tobenefit both the government and its citizens.
Whathas your experience been like with the DC launch? How does it comparewith what you’ve seen in other cities where you operate?
Weknew D.C. would be a perfect fit for dockless bike-share. WashingtonD.C. is consistently ranked among the top biking cities in thecountry, has a track record of forward thinking transportationpolicies, and is a city that teaches all students how to ride a bike.As a city, Washington D.C. has ambitious climate change goals whichare in favor of alternative modes of transportation.
Thebig question I keep hearing about dockless is “aren’t thesebikes going to be stolen or damaged?” How do you respond to thisquestion?
Unlikeother bikeshare companies, Spin has a dedicated staff on the groundin every city in which we operate to ensure that bikes areconveniently and legally placed.Spinwill dispatch a ground operations member within 1 hour between thehours of 9am-7pm to deal with bikes reported as obstructingpublic right of way, with after-hours requests managed the followingmorning. Spin users and the general public can also report bikes 24/7via the website or the app. Thanks to our GPS tracking technology, wecan anticipate and prevent bikes from piling up.
We’veseen pictures on twitter of damagedbikes.How common is this and how do you deal with this?
Mostpeople are treating our bikes responsibly and with respect. Whilethere are certainly instances of irresponsible use, it’s up to usto be proactive about addressing those issues, through our ground opsteam and through community engagement.
TheSpin bikes that I’ve seen are single speeds, have a front basket, anda chainguard. Is that standard for all of your bikes?
Thebikes are all mostly identical. We tweak them as needed for eachlandscape. For example, we have a customized bike created just forSeattle to be able to handle that particular terrain. But generally,those features are standard.
[editor note: Subsequent to this interview, Spin replaced its single speeds with 3-speeds]
Dothey all have headlights and taillights?
Howdo you make a bike “weather proof”?
Spinchanges the bikes based on terrain so when the winter comes therewill likely be an update.
Yourblog mentions “rogue” bikeshare operators. What has yourexperience been with other dockless companies? Has the competitionbeen fair? Is there a market for multiple dockless companies likewe’re seeing in DC?
Byrogue bikeshare operators, we mean competitorsthat enter cities without permission. Spin is dedicated to workingclosely with cities to establish clear procedures for permitting anda pathway to success that benefits both cities and riders.Essentially we want to complement existing systems in each cityversus focus on beating out competitors.
Whenyou come into a city like DC, how do you measure success?
Wehave been deliberate about rolling out and learning from communityfeedback, especially in terms of placement. One ways we track successis getting data on the number of rides per bike per day. So far,ridership has been incredible.
Willbikeshare spread from cities to less dense towns and suburbs, or isdensity the key?
Weare currently launching in cities, however, we are extending ourfocus to other communities and regions as well. Oneof our values is equitable transportation, so providing affordablebikes to all underserved communities. Wehave recently launched on select college campuses located in morerural areas to bring bikeshare to new areas. Spin’s technologyallows for bluetooth connection to unlock and ride the bikes whencellular storage and data are limited, so there’s definitelyopportunity to bring the bikes beyond city streets.
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