Who is winning the bike share race?
In the last four years, the number of bike sharing platforms has doubled. Mobility giants Lyft and Uber both acquired bike share companies this summer, and dockless and dock based cycles are now commonplace in major cities. Investment has poured into this new mobility solution, but adoption has not come without challenges.
Will the world's biggest bike share companies be able to swerve around the roadblocks of irresponsible use, mounting operational costs, and backlash from city authorities?
We took a look at five leading bike share providers to find out.
Headquarters: Beijing, China
Operates in: Over 200 global cities
Value: $3bn (2017)
Mobike is the biggest shared bicycle operator by number of bikes, making Shanghai the world's largest bike share city. Like most platforms, bikes are activated by downloading a QR code via the company's app. Mobike made its first international move in 2017 when it began to provide bicycles in Singapore. The Chinese company has since expanded to 15 countries, finding a global foothold outside of China's saturated bike share market. This April, the dockless platform was acquired by Chinese mobile internet company Meitan-Dianping for $2.7bn. It has been difficult for Mobike to grow outside of China due to the different urban environments and less consumer enthusiasm, but they remain a leader in the sector nonetheless.
Headquarters: San Mateo, California
Operates in: The US, and the European cities of Bremen, Frankfurt, Paris and Zurich
Value: $1.1bn (2017)
Lime, formerly Lime Bike, runs a bicycle and scooter sharing platform in over 40 US cities and four European cities. As of October 2017, Lime had 150,000 users. It costs $1 for a 30 minute ride on a traditional Lime bike, while the electric alternatives cost $1 to unlock plus 15 cents a minute to use. Following a $335m funding round in 2018, Lime became a Unicorn company - achieving a valuation of over $1bn. Since its incorporation, the platform has raised a total of $467m in funding. As well as electric and standard bicycles, Lime has also rolled out pay per use scooters, which could eventually become more popular than bikes (at least in the US).
3) JUMP Bikes
Headquarters: Brooklyn, New York
Operates in: 40 global cities
Value: Acquired for a reported $200m
JUMP Bikes offers traditional and electric bikes that are unlocked via an app. The platform provides 15,000 non electric bicycles in 40 cities, while its pedal assist electric bikes currently operate in eight US locations. This summer, JUMP was bought by Uber in an acquisition that demonstrated just how important bike sharing has become. Users can now rent JUMP bikes directly through the Uber app, filling the transportation behemoth's first and last mile gap. JUMP has avoided many of the issues faced by competitors by developing dock based units that don't leave abandoned bicycles clogging up city streets, however this has limited accessibility.
Headquarters: New York City
Operates in: Nine US states
Value: Acquired for $250m
US focused company Motivate is owned by Lyft, arguably Uber's main rival in the mobility sphere. It is 'North America's bike share leader,' with two million members as of 2017 and an annual total of 26.5 million trips. Motivate currently operates in nine states across the US, managing a variety of different systems such as Citi Bike, which runs in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. Although some bike share initiatives have been held back by friction with city authorities, Motivate has formed various beneficial partnerships with local governments and organisations. Building these relationships will help companies to establish themselves ahead of competitors.
Headquarters: Beijing, China
Operates in: 12 countries
Value: $2bn (2017)
Ofo claims to be the world's first and largest station free (dockless) bike share platform and app. By 2017, Ofo had deployed over 10 million bicycles in 20 countries, with more than 62 million users. This year, Ofo has struggled to maintain its existing services, ending operations in Australia, Austria, Germany, India, and more. What's more, the company only ordered 80,000 bikes in 2018 instead of the expected five million units. Ofo now plans to focus on selected locations, including London and a handful of unspecified US cities. According to an Ofo spokesperson, the company's withdrawal is not representative of the wider market.
Bike share platforms are clearly on the rise, and are working hard to address the barriers which limit their adoption. The support of mobility leaders and continued investment is helping bike share businesses to improve their services, partner with other organisations, and extend their influence. The surge of interest in shared bikes makes sense given the ongoing first and last mile transportation dilemma. An autonomous, electric vehicle can only get you so far, which is precisely why Uber and Lyft have bought their own cycle solutions. Despite worries over the attitudes of city authorities towards bike sharing, companies like Motivate have build strong partnerships with local governments and businesses to increase usership. Even established automakers like Ford have invested in their own bike share service. Ofo may be scaling back, but its competitors are kicking it up a gear.