The “stationless bikes” that entered the D.C. market last month, will soon be expanding into downtown Silver Spring.
Mobike, one of the four dockless bikeshare companies now operating in the District, is expanding its network of orange bikes to Montgomery County sometime this month. This will allow Mobike users to ride between the District and the Maryland suburb, company officials said.
The company, along with rivals Spin, LimeBike and Jump launched operations in Washington late last month as part of a pilot that allows each operation to have up to 400 bikes on D.C. streets.
Mobike, one of China’s top dockless bikeshare systems, is the first to expand to the Washington suburbs. Arlington and Alexandria are also exploring opening their borders to the new bike services, transportation officials there said last week. Montgomery County officials say other companies may be allowed in the suburb during its testing period.
In Montgomery, the services will expand the transit options available to residents and commuters in one of the most transient areas of the county. Officials say they hope the service will help people not only get around downtown Silver Spring, but also get from nearby neighborhoods to the Metro and bus hub on Colesville Road.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) announced the deal Tuesday afternoon at a ribbon cutting of Silver Spring’s first protected bike lane, along Spring Street.
“Today, we are celebrating two important developments in making bicycle travel in Montgomery County easier, safer and more accessible,” Leggett said. “This protected bike lane and enhanced access to shared bikes can help reduce traffic collisions, improve our traffic flow, and protect our environment.”
The county has designated Silver Spring a bike- and pedestrian-priority area, and in recent years has invested in new bike infrastructure, including the addition of Capital Bikeshare stations and bike lanes and racks.
Mobike is expected to bring a few hundred bikes to the area.
Jillian Irvin, head of U.S. government affairs for Mobike, said the county has welcomed Mobike “with open arms as we strive to make cycling the most convenient, affordable, and environmentally friendly transportation option for residents and tourists alike.”
Mobike has more than 7 million bikes in 180 cities, mostly in China. The company entered the U.S. market via the District last month and has plans to expand to other major U.S. cities.
Dockless bike systems give users a little more freedom than station-based rental programs such as Capital Bikeshare. Instead of heading to a kiosk, dockless customers use an app to locate the nearest available bike, usually parked on a street or sidewalk. Customers then scan a code on the bike to unlock the wheels and begin their trip. Once they’re finished with the bike, they can park it any place it’s legal to park a bike.
Payment is made electronically. Mobike charges $1 for a 30-minute ride.
Montgomery transportation officials say they will consider allowing other companies to operate in the county, and expanding to other high density areas such as Bethesda and Rockville.
“We are open to having conversations with other companies,” said Esther Bowring, a spokeswoman for county transportation services. “It is just going to expand the options.”