BOSTON (CBS) – There’s a turf war brewing between bike sharing companies in our area. It’s a fight between exclusivity, and competition. The contenders? A local startup and what used to be called the Hubway system, and is now called Blue Bikes.
Both sides say they want to negotiate a solution to the bike wars. “What we’re doing today is taking bike sharing to the next level,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told a crowd assembled on City Hall Plaza for a bike festival Friday.
It was a chance to celebrate the planned expansion of the Blue Bike network to Dorchester, Mattapan and Roslindale, and the addition of an important new sponsor, Blue Cross. “By this time next year Boston will own over 200 Blue Bike stations, and 2,000 bikes in the city of Boston,” Walsh said.
That total will hit 3,000 bikes including the other cities that are part of the network; Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline. The four cities own the system. Blue Bikes is the exclusive operator.
But there’s a new kid on the bike block, a local startup called Ant Bicycle. With a swipe of your phone, the Ant bike unlocks, and you’re off. That means, unlike Blue Bikes where you have to pick up and drop off at a docking station, Ant bikes can be left pretty much wherever you want, dockless.
“It seemed really convenient. It seemed easy. You can park it anywhere,” says John Moreau-Drew who was picking up an Ant bike in Cambridge.
But that’s where the conflict lies. Ant’s app shows a lot of bikes in the four Blue Bike cities.
“I would encourage these companies to reach out to us. Do not just start dropping bikes in and around the region. That’s not how it works,” says Mayor Walsh.
“The current regulations and laws are, perhaps, outdated at this point,” says John Gallagher, a co-founder of Ant. He says they’re beefing up staff to retrieve bikes that end up in the four communities, and he’s asking for a chance to compete. “We’re looking to be a part of this really exciting industry, and we hope that they’ll look at us and be willing to work with us,” he says.
Both sides say they want to talk, but in the meantime, the city of Somerville has sent Ant bikes a letter saying it shouldn’t operate in that community. Boston has picked up about 20 of the bikes off the sidewalks and put them in storage. The city has contacted Ant to come and get them.