The Uber and Lyft Bike Blitzkrieg

Bike sharing is a relatively common newcomer, this might sound a weird way of stating the gig, but bike sharing started out as a city initiative in many countries and grew into a fully-fledged gig-economy.

There are only two issues when dealing with electric bike-sharing, they are vandals and city authorities. While cites do support bike sharing, they don't like bikes being left around in piles, or leaning against buildings in a haphazard way. These are the dockless bike services, and while they provide an easy to access approach, they tend to be very messy. Dockless bikes are also prone to mass destruction, and that is why many companies closed down operations in various cities around the world.

With these two issues facing bike share companies, it has not slowed down the expansion and progress these companies are making globally. It seems, however, that most of the advances were made by Chinese companies. Beijing based OFO, is valued at $3 billion and has around 70 million riders raised $1 billion, and Mobile, also from Beijing, and also valued around $3 billion raised around $800 million. There are a reported (estimated) 20 million bikes spread between 50 companies operating in China. In comparison, according to US statistics, there are over 42,000 bike share bikes in the US.

OFO - Yellow

According to Danish-based bike share company Donkey Republic, "The Chinese companies did what they know best: they started a race for operating scale and market share nationwide, by literally flooding the streets of first-tier cities with millions of low-cost bikes, while counting on their IoT technology and large data platforms (remember, they track every trip you make through GPS) to become attractive to strategic investors."

Since China was already saturated with bikes, the Chinese companies decided to spread out globally, and they hit the EU in 2017. Mobile, bike and OFO and more all entered Europe at roughly the same time and there were a sudden invasion and explosion of multi-colored bikes scattered around many major cities in Europe.

Europe is not China, where the Chinese government made strict regulations that are mandatory (unlike in Europe that means do or die). Bike share companies must create electronic fences (map layouts) that define where bikes can be parked when not in use. This has caused problems for some of the companies, and around 20 bike share companies in China closed due to their inability to invest and set up these electronic fences.

Things are starting to heat up in Europe too, where the European Cyclists' Federation's Platform for European Bicycle Sharing and Systems (PEBSS) sent out a warning notice to municipalities where bike sharing was starting to get out of hand. They stated that "app-based, unanchored and unlicensed bike share schemes" will cause city-wide havoc.

At the time that PEBSS sent out their warning, Amsterdam, which is usually a very liberal-minded city and considered bike heaven, announced that it was banning all bike share companies from operating within the city limits.

The rest of Europe, as well as the US, are starting to define regulations and create rules that will limit the way bike sharing is performed and managed in their countries. These are supported by bike share "unions" such as BikePlus, a UK based association. BikePlus published a set of regulations which defines how a bike share app should charge the user. It demands a geo-fence and designated parking area with in-app systems to support correct parking. If the bike is not parked within a defined area, the user will continue to be charged for as long as the bike is "un-parked."

Due to the many incidents and adverse reactions caused by the dock less electric bike market, Lyft opted into the normal bicycle market, where the costs are much lower, and there is no need for a dock or maintenance. Lyft partnered with Baltimore Bike Share. Lyft intends to set up non-electric docking areas for bikes and will call them "transportation hubs."

Unlike Lyft, Uber is going with the mainstream and partnered with NYC based Jump to test out the profitability of dock-based bike sharing. Jump is planning a series of charging centers to be set up in commercial and residential neighborhoods. This will define where their bikes will be available for picking up and dropping off.

With all the issues around electric and manual bikes, come issues that include docking and charging, parking and GPS positioning. Add to this maintenance, and you have a costly affair which might not prove to be as lucrative as it seems. At the same time, many apps are being developed to help cyclists in this new explosion of use; these apps include maps, travel planners, mile tracers, and traffic as well as road obstacle warning systems.

The bottom line is that electric and manual bike sharing is here, it is staying, it is growing, and it will evolve. One thing we can be sure of, there will be no driverless bike share tech developed.

Its time to do an Uber skateboard, Uber drone, Uber submarine, Uber yacht, Uber wheelchair and even an Uber Space Flight. Yup, join forces with Elon Musk and create an Uber flight to Mars! I wonder how much Uber will pay their space pilots? Will they deduct a 25% service fee too?

I sometimes wonder what Uber and like will think of next. I always though that Uber wanted an easy life, relying only on code and software apps to provide income. Investing in hardware such as bikes is a bit dangerous for them? Isnt it? Its like investing in AV hardware. (Yes, sarcasm)