It’s been two weeks, and there’s finally a solution to all that dockless bike-share clutter. (No, not the bad sidewalk etiquette.)
With the widespread rollout of four dockless bike-share fleets adding to an established Capital Bikeshare network, a subway system, and multiple car-sharing options, D.C. suddenly has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to non-car transportation. But there’s been one thing missing since the colorful bikes made their arrival: A central directory to tell users which bike-share’s steed is closest. To achieve that required an awkward dance of opening four different apps — five if you count Capital Bikeshare.
That changed Thursday with the announcement that Transit, a smartphone app that aggregates transportation options, has added support for LimeBike, Mobike, JUMP and Spin dockless bike-share fleets.
Now instead of having to trawl four apps to find the closest ride across town, there’s a one-stop-shop. This problem of scarcity, of course, would be all but eliminated if D.C.’s streets were blanketed with the 20,000 bikes one company’s CEO envisions. But for now, finding a dockless bike can be a bit of an Easter egg hunt — especially if you’re set on riding one of the coveted JUMP electric-assist bikes — by far the rarest of dockless rides with only 8 or so showing up on the map at any time.
There is, for now, one major drawback to the Transit app: It tells where the bikes are, but doesn’t allow for reserving or unlocking directly. For that, users still have to open each company’s app. Home screen clean-freaks might balk at keeping four apps around, but in practice it’s a minor hiccup.
The app also promises to do route-planning, steering riders to the most bike-friendly streets, but perhaps the most eyebrow-raising activity it enables is spotting when the dockless bikes have been parked in off-limits areas. As part of their six-month pilot program agreement with the District Department of Transportation, the companies are supposed to keep the bikes from being parked on the Mall, in Rock Creek Park, on private property, and from crossing the river into Virginia, but that hasn’t stopped some users.