The two Chinese dockless bike companies that entered the D.C. market last year are out.
Both companies operate millions of bikes in China and Europe, but in the United States, they have encountered regulatory challenges that they say have impeded their growth. In the District, the companies were part of a pilot program that launched last September and was extended through the end of August.
The city’s permit allows each participating company to operate a maximum of 400 bikes or scooters, or a combination of both. The departures leave five other operators in D.C. Spin and JUMP operate bikes, while LimeBike has bikes and scooters. Bird and Skip rent scooters.
Chris Martin, Mobike’s vice president of North America operations, blamed the District’s bike cap as the reason the company is leaving, saying the restriction was not conducive to a successful operation. The company did not get the desired density for its bikes because they had to be scattered across all eight wards of the city. A couple of months ago, Mobike had proposed reducing its service area to downtown and stretches of the district where there’s more demand, but the city’s permit would not allow that.
“We will be bringing the operations in D.C. to an end,” Martin said Wednesday, citing the city regulations. “We are not being able to get the same successful operation efficiency or user experience that we have in all of our other international markets right now.”
Earlier in the week, Martin said Mobike is expanding in other markets. In Milan, he said, the company has a similar service area as in D.C. and operates 8,000 bikes.
“We have a huge amount of support from the government,” he said.
Martin said the company expected the District’s pilot would be a short testing period that would lead to an expanded program where companies would be able to have a larger fleet.
“We had a huge expectation and ambition to make it work,” Martin said.
Mobike staff are picking up any bikes left in D.C. streets this week and relocating them to other markets. Mobike is still operating in San Diego, Charlotte and the Houston suburbs.
D.C. customers will be refunded within seven to 10 days for any prepayments they made to use the bikes that rented for $1 per 30 minutes.