August 12, 2017 by

A Citi Bike competitor that doesn't rely on putting out docks for their bikes is coming to New York City next week, despite the fact that the Department of Transportation won't be welcoming them.

The Post reports that Spin, a California company that offers up bikes that can be picked up and left anywhere on the street, will be debuting with 300 bikes in the city on Monday, August 14th. 150 of the bright orange bikes will be distributed in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and another 150 will be placed around Rockaway.

A Spin bike. (via Spin)

Council Member Eric Ulrich welcomed the new bikes, telling the Post that it was a way to provide more choice and that the city didn't owe Citi Bike any protection as a "monopoly." However, the Department of Transportation told the paper that Spin hasn't been authorized to operate in the city, and that "ad hoc promotions for individual companies" isn't the way to expand bike share.

Caroline Samponaro, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives, said that while dockless bike share "has the potential to be part of the future" of bike share in the city, the organization would rather see Citi Bike expanded to Staten Island and the Bronx.

"Dockless bike share is not going to create the solution we're hoping for, which is a connected public transportation network via bike share," she told Gothamist.

The Spin bikes are unlocked with an app, cost $1 per half-hour and can be left anywhere, as they use self-locking technology. Per the company's website, the people behind Spin got tired of traffic and "expensive Uber rides" as well as bike share stations not being located near their favorite snacks.

And while Spin hasn't been sanctioned to operate in New York City, the company was given the go-ahead by city officials in San Francisco recently, where they put out 125 bikes recently, with a plan to grow to a fleet of 500.

Other dockless bike share companies have come under fire for terms of service that could potentially violate users' privacy, as well as rules that say riders are responsible for making sure there are no mechanical faults on the bike.

The issue of maintenance seems especially dicey, as an executive at a dock-reliant bike share system told The Guardian, "You see thousands of bikes parked everywhere around the city and many are not working because nobody takes care of them."

A person reviewing Spin in Seattle also complained the the GPS directing users to the bikes was somewhat faulty, leading him to parking lots and into alleyways.

[Update 3:33 p.m.] The Department of Transportation has sent a cease and desist letter to Spin, warning them not to begin operating in New York on Monday. The letter, from a DOT attorney, reads in part:

Please be advised that you do not have the authorization or permission, pursuant to a concession, franchise, permit, contract or otherwise, required for such operations. Additionally, the City of New York will actively enforce all laws and its police powers, including but not limited to those that protect its rights of way and ensure the safety and service provided by the City’s rights of way.

In addition to the letter, DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg issued a statement in which she said that "this can’t be the Wild West, with ad hoc installations that haven’t received City approval and that don’t fully consider the future of bike sharing in New York."

Trottenberg did say that the DOT is "considering" the use of dockless bike share technology in future phases of the system's expansion.

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