Technology

Some dockless bikes are disappearing from Miami. Here’s what’s replacing them

After just a few weeks operating in Miami, China-based ofo is pulling out.
After just a few weeks operating in Miami, China-based ofo is pulling out. ofo

As a leader of the movement to make Miami-Dade more bike friendly, Francis Vega welcomed the arrival of dockless bikes when the green and yellow two-wheelers started arriving in his Kendall neighborhood earlier this year.

“People have said, ‘We all have seen more people bicycle riding around West Kendall than any time before in the past two years,” the owner of the Two Wheel Picker Bicycle Shop on SW 130th Street said. “The other day, in early morning traffic, I saw someone riding on SW 104th Street [one of the area’s busiest roads]. That’s something you never used to see before.”

Unfortunately for bike fans like Vega, some of the companies that helped spur that ridership growth are now bowing out.

Earlier this month, China-based ofo, the company whose yellow bikes ignited the global dockless craze in the first place, announced it would be pulling out of most of its North American markets, including Miami. The issue: competition.

“As we continue to bring bike-share to communities across the globe, ofo has begun to prioritize operations in a number of successful markets, allowing us to continue to serve our customers at the high level of quality they have come to expect,” the company said in a statement.

Following ofo’s lead is San Francisco-based Spin, which confirmed this week that they would be pulling its bikes out of Miami-Dade. The city of Miami Springs, one of the cities with which Spin had an operating agreement, announced the company’s departure in a statement.

“After so much rave and likability by our community, Spin bikeshare has unfortunately decided to end their program in Miami-Dade County, as their product focus has changed,” the city said in a release.

That new product: electric scooters. Once the appropriate legal parameters are in place, that is.

Yes, the city of Miami and the city of Coral Gables did kick out the same type of electronic scooters from their respective city limits in June, saying new regulations were needed to allow them to be operated safely. Without the safety rules, the scooter operations violated Florida statutes.

But the City of Coral Gables is now finalizing a pilot program with Spin to allow the company’s scooters to legally operate within its city limits. Details including where and when the scooters can be ridden are still being hammered out, a Spin spokesperson said. But when the program is up and running, Coral Gables will be the first municipality in the state of Florida to legally allow scooters, Spin said.

“Instead of going rogue, [Spin] has had conversations with the city, explained the process, and applied for a pilot program,” Coral Gables Commissioner Vince Lago said. “We really appreciate it.”

City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell previously expressed his desire to reintroduce scooters in his city as soon as possible. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The city of Miami has pushed discussion of regulating the two-wheelers to its September 13 session.

“As a still-young startup, our company has decided to focus our energy on a single product line — electric scooters — to better deliver a high-quality experience for our users,” Brian No, Spin’s head of public policy said in an email. “As you know well, the dockless mobility industry has been pretty dynamic and fast-changing, with a shift toward electric-powered modes like scooters, which we have seen are roughly 10 times more popular than traditional bikes when it comes to usage.”

Not all dockless bikes are disappearing from the Magic City. Despite a name change earlier this year from LimeBike, a Lime spokesperson told the Herald there is no plan to pull its bikes from Miami-Dade. Since arriving in the county last summer, Lime says nearly 160,000 rides have been taken on either bikes or scooters.

Rideshare giant Uber recently announced it would be investing in Lime. And Uber has already purchased Jump, a dockless bike company whose two wheeler is entirely electric. Uber public affairs manager Javi Correoso said the company is in talks with the City of Miami to bring Jump bikes to the Magic City.

“Miami really has little to no bike infrastructure, and there’s gaps in our transportation ecosystem that could be filled by these new modes of transportation,” Correoso said.

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