Eyes on the Street: Dockless Citi Bike Prototypes Spotted in Brooklyn

Citi Bike operator Motivate confirmed that the black bikes belong to the company.

Photo: Paul Goebel
Photo: Paul Goebel

Black bicycles with the distinctive Citi Bike frame, fenders, and handlebars have been spotted around Brooklyn this month, and we can confirm that they are prototypes for potential dockless bike-share service operated by Motivate.

Last night, Paul Goebel shared photos of a test bike locked to a rack in Carroll Gardens. In one of his photos you can make out the QR code above the rear wheel lock that users would scan to unlock the bike. The bike also has a larger basket than current Citi Bikes, enclosed on three sides:

Near Motivate’s Sunset Park headquarters, Alan Gerber spied a few varieties of Motivate test bikes, including one GenZe-brand electric bike. (Motivate recently announced the addition of 250 GenZe e-bikes to its Ford GoBike San Francisco operation.)

A Motivate spokesperson confirmed to Streetsblog that the black bikes and GenZe e-bikes belong to the company.

Bike-share experts usually cite the durability of Motivate’s bicycles as one of its competitive advantages, but the company has some catching up to do on dockless technology, with other bike-share operators having run such systems for a few years now. Adding the flexibility of dockless operations is probably essential for Motivate to keep up in the increasingly competitive bike-share sector.

Last month DOT put out a request for expressions of interest for companies looking to run dockless bike-share in areas not currently served by Citi Bike. The Motivate spokesperson said the company is considering responding to the city’s request.

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Bike-Share as a Speculative Venture

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New York, you may have heard, is about to get invaded by a swarm of bike-share companies - often described as "dockless" bike-share because they use "smart locks," not fixed stations, to secure the bicycles. But dockless systems have been operating in American cities for some time now. The real distinguishing feature of the new arrivals is that they're financed like Silicon Valley start-ups.