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Lyft buys Motivate, the nation's biggest bike-share business

Lyft buys Motivate, the nation's biggest bike-share business
A customer pulls one of Motivate's Ford GoBikes from a dock in San Francisco in June. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Lyft is getting into the bike-share business, announcing Monday that it has acquired the nation's largest bike-share operator, Motivate.

The ride-hailing company acquired Motivate, the operator of such bike-share services as Ford GoBike in the San Francisco area and New York's Citi Bike, in a deal believed to be valued at at least $250 million. The company will introduce “Lyft Bikes,” seizing on the momentum around dockless and pedal-assist e-bikes in major U.S. cities, and inject resources into the bike-share operator to expand those offerings around the country.

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It was not immediately clear where Lyft planned to launch those services; the company declined to comment Monday on the details of any product rollouts.

"Lyft and Motivate have both been committed for years to the same goal of reducing the need for personal car ownership by providing reliable and affordable ways to move around our cities," Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer said in a statement. "Bringing together Lyft and Motivate will accelerate our collaboration with cities and deliver even better experiences to our passengers and riders."

Ride-hailing companies have indicated they want to make their apps one-stop shops for mobility, enabling users to select a destination and use the appropriate mode of transportation — whether solo or pooled ride, bike or, perhaps scooter — to get there.

Lyft hinted it wants to offer a service similar to JUMP Mobility, the e-bike company acquired this spring by Uber. Lyft said it wants to grow existing markets and "work with cities on delivering innovation, including providing dockless and pedal-assist electric bikes to riders around the country," according to a news release on its Motivate acquisition.

In contrast to dockless bike-share and scooter services such as Lime, Bird and Spin, Motivate operates fixed-dock services that are fueling the rise of bike-sharing around the country. Capital Bikeshare, a service it launched in the Washington area in 2010 with 100 stations and just over 1,000 bikes, has surged in popularity, growing to 500 stations and 4,300 bikes.

The purchase does not include Motivate's bike maintenance and service division, a unionized workforce, which will remain a separate division. Lyft says it inherits Motivate's corporate and technology divisions, and the city contracts that fuel branding agreements such as New York's Citi Bike, San Francisco's Ford GoBike and Portland's Nike-sponsored "Biketown."

While ride-hailing companies might have an interest in rebranding the bikes under their own corporate logos, it could be a tricky prospect because cities have existing contracts with corporate sponsors. Lyft says sponsorship agreements will remain in place in the short-term.

Citi Bike's May 2018 operating report said it brought in $6.5 million in total revenue — $4.6 million in membership and other fees and $1.8 million in sponsorship money. Citi paid $41 million to be the corporate sponsor for New York's bike-share system beginning in 2012.

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