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Dockless bike-share service arrives in Montgomery County

A man uses a LimeBike in Farragut Square park on Sept. 20, 2017. The dockless bike system expanded to Montgomery County on Thursday. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDSPAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Silver Spring woke up Thursday with a new way to get around: 240 of Limebike’s green bicycles scattered throughout downtown for public use.

Friday, 100 of Ofo’s bikes arrive; and by the end of November the China-based company plans to have as many as 1,000 of its yellow bikes in the area.

In coming days, its Chinese competitor Mobike will add an undisclosed number of its silver bikes with bright orange wheels and baskets to the vibrant commercial and residential district of Montgomery County.

The“stationless bikes” that entered the D.C. market last month, are now available in Silver Spring, where the bike companies have more freedom to maximize their reach because of fewer restrictions on the number of bikes they can put on the roads during a six-month testing period approved by the county.

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In the District, where five app-based dockless bike services are operating, companies are restricted to 400 bicycles each.

Esther Bowring, a Montgomery transportation department spokeswoman, said the county chose not to limit the number of bikes during its pilot.

“We have identified the geographic area for the demonstration that extends beyond downtown Silver Spring,” Bowring said. “It is up to the private companies to gauge their market and the number of bikes they think will work best. We have the ability to intervene if required.”

Mobike, one of the four dockless bikeshare companies now operating in the District, was the first company to sign a county agreement, expanding its network of orange bikes to Montgomery. Company officials said they anticipate users to ride between the District and the Maryland suburb.

In the District, besides Mobike, Limebike and Ofo, rivals Spin and Jump have also launched operations as part of the city’s own six-month pilot.

LimeBike CEO envisions as many as 20,000 dockless bikes in D.C.

Silver Spring became the first Washington suburb to welcome the new, and growing, bikeshare services.  County officials say Montgomery is the first suburban jurisdiction in the country to have such a system.

In the Washington area, Arlington and Alexandria have said they too are exploring opening their borders to the new bike services.

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 residential neighborhoods to the Metro and bus hub on Colesville Road.

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The bike services, transportation officials say, are complimentary to the region’s transit options, including the popular Capital Bikeshare program that is now available in the District and Alexandria and Arlington, Montgomery and Fairfax counties.

The region is continuing to invest in Capital Bikeshare, which now has more than 4,100 bicycles at 480 stations.

The dockless bike systems are new to the U.S., but are popular in China and other countries.  Users can spot the nearest bike available through an app, 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.