- Earlier this month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) issued an exclusive permit to Jump Bike for the city's dockless bike-sharing pilot. The 18-month permit will allow for 250 stationless electric bikes, with the potential to add an additional 250 bikes after a nine-month evaluation.
- Ofo, a bike-share company that had worked with the city for six months on its application to be part of the pilot, wrote a letter to SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin expressing "strong disappointment" in the agency's "unnecessarily opaque permit granting process." Ofo claims it met all of the requirements to receive a permit, and that the city entertained draft permit reviews with ofo even after the permit had been granted to Jump.
- Ofo requested for SFMTA to consider re-opening the permit process, though SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose indicated to TechCrunch that the agency would not grant the request. SFMTA did not respond to Smart Cities Dive's request for comments in time for publication.
A number of dockless bike-share services, including ofo and LimeBike, were involved in the permit application process, which ofo claims was a "sole source procurement process under the guise of an open permitting system." Ofo points to cities like Seattle and Charlotte, NC that have granted multiple dockless bike-share permits, arguing that San Francisco should do the same in order to make it a fair and open system.
While ofo's frustrations in the process itself may be valid, SFMTA was strategic in its decision to select one dockless provider for the pilot. In a blog post, SFMTA wrote the decision was made with the city's "unique operating environment" in mind, and Rose explained to TechCrunch that the city "must ensure there will not be an over-concentration of shared bikes in the public right-of-way or an imbalance in their geographical distribution." As seen in Seattle, Dallas, Washington, DC and others, an over-concentration of dockless bikes has resulted in tension and frustrations due to bikes being littered in public spaces.
San Francisco's decision to issue the permit to Jump is intriguing, however, considering the city's recent announcement to add 250 electric Ford GoBikes to its bike-share network. While electric bikes are a smart investment to help riders tackle the area's steep hills, it will be interesting to see if riders' needs are met by electric bikes — or if balancing the bike-share network with a non-electric dockless bike would have better met public demands.