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Lyft Gets into Bike-Sharing, Following Uber

In a nearly $250 million deal, the ride-hailing company acquired Motivate, among other bike-share services, to help place dockless and pedal-assisted e-bikes in major U.S. cities.

(TNS) — Ride-hailing giant Lyft announced Monday it would acquire Motivate, the company that operates the San Francisco Bay Area’s Ford GoBike network, in the latest example of car companies getting into the business of short-term bike rentals.

The move is one more step in the industry’s march toward increased dominance in the shared-vehicle market, whether that’s bikes, cars or scooters, said Susan Shaheen, an adjunct professor of transportation engineering at UC Berkeley. Lyft’s largest rival, Uber, announced in April it was leaping into the shared bike craze with its acquisition of JUMP Bikes, an all-electric bike-share network.

In part, that’s a response to the changing nature of city living and the increasing desire from customers to have more flexibility in the way they move around, she said.

“At peak travel times, users may prefer to hop on a bike or scooter to reduce travel times, costs and to get some exercise,” Shaheen said.

But, it also enables the companies to get information about what people are doing when they get to their destinations so they can tailor advertisements and experiences to their customers’ interests, said Bryant Walker Smith, an affiliate scholar at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.

“It’s, ‘How can I get people what they want,’” he said. “And it’s also about just getting entrenched in people’s minds so they aren’t thinking about travel modes but about the company.”

Understanding travel patterns will also be a key element in managing fleets of autonomous vehicles — a technology Uber and Lyft, both based in San Francisco, are developing. Ultimately, Smith said these companies are signaling a sincere desire to reduce car ownership — and getting ahead of the curve by offering alternatives.

Lyft co-founder and president, John Zimmer, echoed that sentiment in a statement, saying the acquisition was aimed at “providing reliable and affordable ways to move around” and by Motivate Executive Chairman Steve Koch.

“How we get around cities is changing rapidly, and the combination of Lyft and Motivate will bring tremendous new resources and energy to making sure that bikeshare plays a fundamental role in the new urban mobility,” Koch said in a statement.

To do that, they’ll want to fill in the gaps that exist with public transportation, said Dan Sperling, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis. He sees the expanding options as a step toward an integrated trip-planning and payment platform, or app, that would combine car-sharing, bikes, scooters, buses, trains and ferries — including private and public operators — to create a seamless experience for the user.

Lyft is already working with public transit agencies to help users better plan trips around transit.

“We see a vacuum in how travelers receive information about transportation options, and we see a great shortage of travel choices,” Sperling said. “Lyft and Uber are stepping forward to fill that vacuum.”

That’s great for Ford GoBike users like Cliff Bargar, a San Francisco resident, who began using the bright blue bikes about 10 months ago, when it expanded into his Potrero Hill neighborhood. He’s hoping Lyft’s acquisition of Ford GoBike will bring more resources to continue expanding its service area.

“It’s become my primary mode of transportation,” he said, adding that he uses it primarily to ride to Caltrain or BART and to bike around San Francisco. He used to worry about his own bike getting stolen and having to leave it at a friend’s house if he stayed in the East Bay, for example, after BART closed for the night. “Now, I don’t have to worry about having to get back the same way I got there.”

Ford GoBike, the Bay Area’s largest bike-share provider, last year began deploying 7,000 bikes across Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. JUMP launched in San Francisco last June and a few months later, secured the city’s first dockless bike-sharing permit. Unlike most Ford GoBikes, JUMP Bikes have self-locking devices and can be parked anywhere, as long as its secured to a bike rack or other stationary object.

Not to be outdone, Ford GoBike last month made its first foray into dockless bikes, dropping 200 self-locking bikes throughout north San Jose. It was also close on the heels of JUMP and Lime (formerly LimeBike), which in January expanded their offerings for electric pedal-assist bikes. Ford GoBike’s electric bicycles hit the streets a few months later.

In addition to Ford GoBike, Motivate operates Citi Bike in New York, Divvy in Chicago, Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., BIKETOWN in Portland, Oregon, CoGo in Columbus and Nice Ride in Minneapolis, among others.

The price of the deal was not disclosed.

©2018 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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