The bikeshare industry has grown immensely in the United States. Now, many cities are beginning to explore new dockless bike options — but for San Francisco, that may pose a problem.
Recently, Lyft sued San Francisco over claims that the city was violating a ten-year contract that gave the company exclusive rights to operate bikeshare programs, TechCrunch reported. However, San Francisco says that the contract doesn’t apply to dockless programs.
Lyft is the owner of Motivate, which operates the Ford Gobike program in San Francisco. The only other company that operates a bikeshare program in the city is Uber’s JUMP, which offers dockless bikes.
According to TechCrunch, Lyft says that was supposed to be an exemption since Motivate wasn’t able to deploy its own dockless bikes. JUMP’s pilot ends in July, so Lyft’s issues stem from San Francisco seeking additional operators for dockless bikes.
“We are eager to continue investing in the regional bikeshare system with the MTC and San Francisco,” a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We need San Francisco to honor its contractual commitments to this regional program — not change the rules in the middle of the game. We are eager to quickly resolve this, so that we can deliver on our plans to bring bikes to every neighborhood in San Francisco.”
This lawsuit may seem frivolous, but it reveals a deeper issue with how companies are stifling competition. Ultimately, Lyft is trying to seek a monopoly on bikeshare programs within San Francisco.
“The agreement between Motivate and the city was about a docked bike (rental) system,” John Coté, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It does not give Lyft the right to a monopoly on bike (rentals) in San Francisco. Lyft can seek a permit for dockless bikes on equal footing with everyone else.”
If Lyft does get its monopoly on bikeshare programs, that could change the game for contracts across the nation. It seems unlikely that San Francisco will reach an agreement with the company outside of court.