Think of any combination of noises that form an active sound of some kind. Now Google whatever combination of sounds you just made. Chances are, it will be the name of a bikeshare company in Dallas. Zagster? Yep! How about ofo? You got it!
There are seemingly hundreds of them. What started off as a friendly competition is now a royal rumble, with each company competing to have the most bikes awkwardly abandoned in front yards and on sidewalks around Dallas.
Limebike has an adjustable seat, and Vbikes have tires that can’t go flat. Spin is orange. Ofo is from China. But each company is more or less the same idea. Get an app, rent a bike for a dollar an hour and leave it wherever you want. It is all about being in the right location.
You might find one in a bush or being hoarded in your neighbor’s garage. A funny trick to do is follow someone who has taken the bike to a restaurant or shop. When they park the bike outside, rent it for yourself and ride away, leaving them stranded.
Zagster, whose bicycles can be found alongside the newly completed Mockingbird pedestrian bridge, has gone retro. It requires riders to return the bikes to the same docking station where they rented it. We shall see how that goes.
The companies’ similarities don’t just end at the price points. It seems that their marketing strategies are about as similar as their business models.
ofo: “The world’s first and largest station-free bicycle-sharing platform”
Spin: “North America’s leading stationless bikeshare company”
Zagster: “The North American leader in bike sharing”
Limebike: “Produced by the world’s largest and premiere bike manufacturer,
used by other trusted brands worldwide.”
VBikes: “Stationless bike sharing service that allows people to go where they want at anytime”
Don’t get it twisted. The city needs a culture change, and these companies can be part of making Dallas more cycle-friendly. But it might be a bit much. Are Dallasites walking around with five different bike-share apps on their phones? Who has the memory for that?
There is a principal in economics called the tragedy of the commons. This is where a group of villagers all share a field for a certain number of cows. When the villagers add one too many, the field is chewed down to an unsustainable level and never recovers. The owner of that extra cow benefits in the short run, because he has another cow he can sell, but the village loses its field (and ability to feed future cows) forever. Dallas may be at this point with bike-share programs. One more program might make a bit of money right now, but could it end up turning Dallas against these innovative companies forever?
By the time anyone reads this, there may be more than five independent bike-share companies in Dallas. Or perhaps Mayor Mike Rawlings will trip over one on his way to work and have them all melted down into non-Confederate statues. Time will tell.