The Lab @ DC
Stronger Evidence for a Stronger DC

Are dockless bikes the right addition to the District's transportation options?

Are dockless bikes the right addition to the District's transportation options?

Project Summary
In September 2017, the District began piloting dockless bike-share with three private companies: MoBike, Ofo, and Lime. Seemingly overnight, hundreds of bikes appeared on DC streets that could be rented by the minute and parked anywhere in the city. To inform the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) decision on whether and how to regulate these systems after the pilot, we analyzed ridership data from the dockless bike companies. We found that dockless bikes did not reduce the use of existing docked bikes (like Capital Bikeshare) and, in fact, increased overall bike ridership. After the pilot period, electric scooters were added to the District’s dockless transportation options.
Map of where dockless bike trips start/end. Points are plotted where the trip started and colored by where they ended. (Credit: The Lab @ DC)

Map of where dockless bike trips start/end. Points are plotted where the trip started and colored by where they ended. (Credit: The Lab @ DC)

Why is this issue important in DC?
We want to make it easy to get around our city whether you’re going to work, or school, or shopping. Dockless bikes may offer an affordable mobility solution to reduce roadway congestion. But during the pilot, dockless bikes also were disruptive, parked in the middle of sidewalks, or left in otherwise irresponsible locations (e.g. flower beds, entry stairs). The District government was interested in finding the right balance between increasing access to transportation options and protecting the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter users on our sidewalks and streets.

What did we do?
Each company operating dockless bikes in the District was required to provide trip-level data to the District. Using nine months of this data, we ran a series of descriptive analyses to see: how often the bikes were used, where trips started and ended, and whether their presence corresponded to a decline in the use of Capital Bikeshare.

What have we learned?
We found that dockless bikes increased overall bicycle ridership in the District. The introduction of dockless bike-share had no apparent negative impact on Capital Bikeshare ridership. In addition, we found that most trips started and ended downtown and an overwhelming majority of trips started and ended within the same ward.

With our requirements on affordability and equity, we [DDOT] have created new choices for residents in all eight wards, while fostering a landscape of competition among operators that will reward the most innovative, safe and efficient providers of dockless bikes and scooters.
— DDOT Director, Jeff Marootian1

What comes next?
The analysis informed the ultimate renewal of the dockless pilot. However, since the conclusion of this study, several dockless bike-share companies have left the DC market and, in July 2018, all others converted their fleet to electric bikes and electric scooters. The data provided by dockless transit companies are helping DDOT continue to analyze usage patterns. This will inform MoveDC, DDOT’s long-range plan for the District’s transportation system.

What happened behind the scenes?
The places people left dockless bikes never ceased to amaze. This one probably didn’t increase ridership. Starting in 2019, all dockless bikes were required to have lock devices.