In July 2018, Lyft announced that it was buying Motivate, the largest bike-share operator in the US, including Citi Bike in New York City. At the time, it was seen as a major move by the ride-hailing company to expand beyond cars. Now, bikes and cars are on equal footing as Lyft announces that Citi Bike has been completely integrated into its smartphone app.
Lyft previously announced the beta-testing of Citi Bike in its app for about 20 percent of its users. Today, it will be available to everyone with the Lyft app on their phone. Customers can rent a bike as easily as they hail a car. (Citi Bike still requires the input of five-digit code to unlock a bike.)
Lyft will also be launching a new marketing campaign to tout its $100 million investment in Citi Bike to expand the system from 12,000 bikes to 40,000, making it one of the largest bike-share systems in the world. The company says it expects ridership to “increase significantly” as a result of Citi Bike’s full integration today.
This isn’t the first time that bikes have appeared in Lyft’s app. Customers can use the Lyft app to rent a bike or scooter as well as get public transit directions in three cities: Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. The integration of Citi Bike suggests it’s just a matter of time before Lyft does the same with Motivate’s other big bike-share systems, including Ford Go Bike in San Francisco and Divvy Bike in Chicago.
Lyft is locked in a desperate race with its rival Uber to become the ultimate multimodal transportation service. Lyft announced its acquisition of Motivate a few months after Uber said it would buy dockless bike-share startup Jump. (Jump bikes are available to rent in either Uber or Jump’s smartphone apps.) Both companies are jockeying to become one-stop shops for all types of available urban transportation, including cars, bikes, scooters, and more.
It hasn’t been totally smooth going. In April, Lyft was forced to pull thousands of pedal-assist electric bikes out of service in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco after problems with the braking systems were detected. Those bikes are expected to return until this fall.
Citi Bike does not receive subsidies from the city, but it does retain exclusive rights to operate bike-sharing in its service area. That grates with other bike and scooter operators, including Lime and Uber’s Jump. Both of those companies are part of a city-run dockless bike-share pilot operating in the outer boroughs: Lime in Staten Island and the Rockaway section of Queens, and Jump in the Bronx and Staten Island. (Citi Bike is also part of the pilot operating dockless bikes in the Bronx.) Meanwhile, Lime and Uber have criticized the city for signing an exclusive contract with Citi Bike that limits the options of the bike-riding public.
But docked, rather than dockless, appears to the be status quo in New York for the near future. State lawmakers passed up a chance to lift its ban on electric bike and scooter services earlier this year. And while another bill has been recently introduced, it’s not clear if and when it will pass. This week, Lime deployed e-scooters in Hoboken, New Jersey, which is right across the Hudson River from New York City, as part of a six-month pilot program. New York is one of the last states in the US to prohibit dockless bike and scooter programs.