Dockless bikes are officially here, folks.
Bikes from the newest trend in bike-share were spotted across D.C. — mostly in downtown– Wednesday, as part of the launch for at least three companies.
We spotted a LimeBike bike near H and 8th streets NE. By noon, the Spin app said no bikes were available in the city, though Spin officials said they were planning to roll out 400 bikes starting today.
The popular Chinese bike company Mobike was in full gear. Quite a few of the company’s bikes were available along the K Street corridor and all over downtown. The company said it is planning to start with 200 bikes this week, but will add more as demand grows.
“We are so excited to be in D.C.,” Mobike USA tweeted Wednesday. “And definitely working our hardest to make sure there are bikes available for everyone in D.C.”
The D.C. Department of Transportation confirmed the three companies have registered to operate in the city. A total of six companies have expressed interest in doing business in the District, city officials said Monday.
Each company is permitted to have up to 400 bikes, DDOT spokesman Terry Owens said.
Kishan Putta, an avid rider and longtime member of Capital Bikeshare, used a Mobike to commute to work Wednesday and the trip went relatively seamlessly, he said. It was convenient to drop it right in front of his office and to not have to worry about full docks. The only downside, he said, he noticed there was no notification that the ride had started or a timer clocking the ride.
“Love the baskets with solar panels and the bell neatly tucked into the handle (duh!)” Putta tweeted. Putta, who has used dockless bikes in Asia, said there are app glitches in Asia as there are here.
And there was lots of chatter on Twitter and other social media about all the new bikes parked on city sidewalks– along with some of those glitches.
Some riders complained that the Mobike bikes don’t ride as smoothly as those from Capital Bikeshare; others said there weren’t enough bikes in the system. A few people reported the app showed the nearest bike was n Beijing. Some bikes spotted on the street did not show on the app.
But the arrival of the dockless bike-share model was received mostly with praise and excitement in a city that has embraced biking as a mode of transportation. Some biking aficionados said they hope the companies will indeed bring more bikes to underserved communities of the District, including the Northeast and Southeast quadrants.
Holly Krambeck, a transportation economist at the World Bank, said she was delighted to see a Mobike during her morning walk to work Wednesday. She had downloaded the Mobike app during a work trip in China earlier this year.
“I saw something amazing in Beijing, in Kunming, in Lanzhou – bicycles, everywhere! I mean, everywhere,” she said. “These rainbow fleets taking over streets and sidewalks reminded me of the old days, but more colorful…and maybe more chaotic.”
When she opened the Mobike app Wednesday she was skeptical it would work across borders. It was showing bicycle locations in Beijing. But it did work.
“I hope the dockless bikes, co-existing with Capital Bikeshare, will lead to more bicycle ridership in D.C., just as they have in China, and most importantly lead to more demand for better and safer cycling infrastructure,” she said.
LimeBike officials said as part of the roll out and through the end of the month, riders can use the code “HELLODC” to try out LimeBike for free.