With distinctive bike color differences, a veritable rainbow of bike sharing options have arrived for the workers and residents of this region.  Dockless bikesharing, an approach that has been incredibly popular in China and other foreign countries, is now just appearing in U.S. cities such as Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco.  In September pilot programs were launched in DC.

The concept does away with having to retrieve and replace a shared bike at specific “docking” kiosks, as the popular Capital Bikeshare program that we use now, requires.  Instead, the smart bikes are equipped with electronic locking systems and GPS technology that allows users to find and unlock the bike using an app on your phone.  When you are finished using the bike, you leave it at your destination and lock it with your app.  The companies track fees through the GPS and time that you have had the bicycle unlocked.  Like Uber and Lyft, payments are made electronically when you establish an account with the bike service.

In September, four new “dockless” bike sharing companies were given the green light by DCDOT to start pilot programs in the city.  Mobike, Spin, LimeBike and Jump were all given permission to place 400 bikes each.  In October, Montgomery County granted Mobike permission to place bikes in downtown Silver Spring and indicated that they may permit Mobike’s competitors to start pilots as well.  Virginia’s inner localities, Arlington and Alexandria, are contemplating similar programs.  In a recent Washington Post article, the owner of LimeBike predicted that, based on the high usage of bicycling and the demographics, DC needed a 20,000 bike share infrastructure to substantially reduce single occupant vehicle usage.

Capital Bikehare currently has 4,100 bikes and 480 stations in DC and the suburbs.  The new competition is cheaper, charging $1 for every 30 minutes compared with $2 for the same trip on Capital Bikeshare.  Local mobility planners think the addition of competition will increase and expand availability of bikes into areas that might not by typically served.