Four new bike-share companies arrived in the streets of Washington, D.C. this weekend. One of them features an electric assist bike, and the others are dockless bikes that can take you straight to your destination. The electric bike is also dockless, but it has to be locked to any regular bike stand.
Spin, LimeBike, and Mobike are each launching 400 dockless bikes in D.C., putting them in direct competition with the Capital Bikeshare program which now boasts 3,700 bikes and 440 bike docking stations in the District, Maryland, and Virginia.
LimeBike, Mobike, and Spin bikes can be left at any curb side. The bikes locks themselves electronically with their own on-frame lock, and they have an internal GPS-tracking system to discourage theft and ease location-finding for riders and for maintenance. Unlocking the frame-mounted lock is as simple as opening the app and pointing the phone’s camera at a QR code mounted on the bike you want to rent.
How's it work? Well, for starters there is a solar panel in the front basket of each LimeBike and Mobike which charges the internal battery for the GPS and bike lock mechanism. You pay for the bike rental through a smart phone app which scans the QR code on your bike, same as if you were using a local parking meter. Once you’re done riding, you lock the bike just about anywhere within the right of way (i.e curbside near the street), but not in a park, on the Mall, on private property, or near the Capitol complex.
The cost is only $1 for a 30-minute ride hour. All of the bikes ask for a credit card, phone number, and access to your location — necessary to pay for your rides and to help you locate the nearest GPS-equipped bike with the help of the phone app.
Because the bikes will track rides and locations, they will be able to provide the city with solid data for smart bicycle infrastructure investments in the future -- a win-win for city residents.
Ending a ride is as simple as sliding the lock’s lever, but you have to be careful where you park. In their user agreements, the companies tell you to leave the bike in an appropriate parking place — such as next to the curb of the sidewalk. Do not park the bike on the Mall, at the White House or Capitol complexes, in a city park, or on private property or your bike ride will cost you a $100.
A fourth bike-sharing company is also entering the D.C. market with an electric-assist bike.
Jump DC bikes have an electric motor in the front wheel and a battery concealed in the frame. When you pedal, the bike senses your effort and supplements it with a little e-power of its own. While you can pay for Jump DC bikes through a cell phone app, JUMP bikes can also sync with D.C.'s SmarTrip card to let people without smartphones access the bikes.
Unlike the three previously mentioned dockless bikes, which can be left on the edge of any sidewalk, Jump DC bikes must be locked to any regular bike rack with an integrated U-lock that’s held magnetically to the frame. Jump says it will be swapping out the bikes’ batteries every three days, and this maintenance (along with the smoother less-energy ride) means the cost of this bike ride is $2 for 30 minutes.