Innovation is moving fast in the bike-sharing segment. The first large citywide schemes in Paris, London, and New York used docking stations. But dock-based rentals have two key disadvantages over free-floating fleets: they are less convenient and much more expensive. In the Washington D.C. program, it costs $3,700 for each bike and its dock. By comparison, dockless e-bikes cost a few hundred dollars, with prices declining rapidly.
Furthermore, docked bikes are far more susceptible to technical malfunctions. Last year, bike-share riders plummeted from 290,000 to 220,000 in Paris after an “upgrade” to the fleets of bikes and docking stations went poorly. The new operator, a French-Spanish consortium called Smovengo, fell months behind schedule in installing the 1,400 new stations – many of which were beset with electrical and software problems.