Rockaway Dockless Bike Share Pilot Suffers Blow as Pace Pulls Out

You won't see this site in the Rockaways any more — a man on a Pace bike. Photo: Mary Ellen Burke
You won't see this site in the Rockaways any more — a man on a Pace bike. Photo: Mary Ellen Burke

Bombs away!

One of the two companies participating in a dockless bike-share test in the Rockaways is bailing months early, citing plummeting customers — a stunning failure that comes on the heels of the week’s other disaster, the ongoing Citi Bike repair crisis.

Pace Bikes made the announcement in a tweet on Thursday afternoon that first celebrated the company’s supposed success before blaming the rotation of the earth for its failure.

“High usage rates made it clear that dockless bikes can add a meaningful layer to NYC’s existing transportation systems,” the parent company, Zagster said. “[But] the decrease in tourists and beachgoers have [sic] have caused ur ridership numbers to drop over the last couple of weeks. As such, Zagster will not continue operating through the falal and winter months.”

The bikes will be removed this Sunday, the company added.

Just 36 minutes later, the Department of Transportation responded with some good news: Lime Bike, which is operating in the same Rockaway pilot zone, will add more bikes to the region. The company “has pledged to increase its # of bikes on the peninsula for the rest of the pilot,” DOT tweeted.

It is unclear how long the pilot program was supposed to last, but it was certainly expected to continue well into fall.

Streetsblog has reached out to all the relevant players and will update this story as more information comes in. But DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told me earlier this month that she hasn’t been all that impressed with the dockless companies — using my own disastrous dockless experience in Staten Island as a jumping off point.

“We are finding they are having difficulty keeping the number of bikes we’ve authorized,” she said. “And even when they have the bikes, is the app working, is the pedal-assist working? There are growing pains in NY. We are a little surprised that they haven’t hit the ground with more bikes. … Is this how these companies roll or can they do better? Some of their rides lasted only one second. So something was going on there. I don’t know the future of the dockless pilot, but we have told them to bring in more bikes and do a better job. Let’s see if they can do that. … We will come back soon with what we’ve learned.”

The failure of Pace Bikes in the Rockaways had some cyclists urging the city to simply push forward with Citi Bike as the only system — except the timing for that couldn’t be worse Streetsblog reported on Wednesday that the nation’s biggest bike-share system was struggling to keep even 60 percent of its fleet on the roads — prompting the company to issue a rare message to its 160,000 annual members, revealing that the failure stems from emergency repairs to bike handlebars.

The company’s numbers are trending downwards. On Thursday, only 6,976 bikes out of a supposed fleet of 12,000 were on the road — meaning just 58 percent of the fleet is in service.

By comparison, Montreal’s Bixi system keeps almost 90 percent of its bikes in working order, according to Bike Share Map, which tracks live system data.