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Dockless Bikesharing Hits New York City’s Transit-Hungry Fringes

The strategy: Keep free-range riders off Citi Bike’s turf.
New York City is dipping its toe in the dockless scene.
New York City is dipping its toe in the dockless scene. NYC Mayor's Office

Until now, New York City has been largely left out of the dockless bike party. On the West Coast, the grab-and-go wheels have swarmed the streets of Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, battling for space with their polarizing siblings, electric scooters. Since September, Washington, D.C., has hosted several dockless bike companies, which have been credited with reaching a more diverse base of riders than the city’s docked bikeshare system. Chicago has recently gotten in on the action, via a pilot program introducing dockless cycles to the city’s South Side. And the dueling ride-hailing goliaths Uber and Lyft have both leaped into the bikesharing fray, in their respective efforts to dominate the shared mobility market.

But America’s most populous city, home of the nation’s largest bikeshare program with the dock-based Citi Bike (which completed 60 million rides in June), has so far avoided DoBi Fever. And that’s very much by design: Transit officials here have kept a tight grip on Gotham’s streets, even going so far as sending a cease-and-desist letter to dockless operator Spin, who tried to blitz the city with its bikes last August. That finally changed last week.