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Angie Schmitt at Streetsblog punctures the balloon:

While there’s been no shortage of stories about the untidiness of dockless bike-share, information about how useful the new systems are has been hard to come by.

A new report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials sheds some light on the situation, and so far the performance of the dockless bike-share systems is underwhelming.

1. Dockless bike-share is growing fast, but it’s not getting much use.

Dockless bike-share companies added 44,000 bikes to American streets in 2017, according to NACTO, compared to 14,000 bikes for station-based systems. …

But looking at ridership paints a different picture. Dockless bike-share carried just 4 percent of all bike-share trips in 2017, according to NACTO’s estimates, despite accounting for 44 percent of all shared bikes. …

One qualification: Dockless bike-share companies still don’t make much trip data available.  …

It’s possible to provide dockless systems that also have well-built equipment, reliable maintenance, and operations that don’t skimp on rebalancing — and maybe systems like that will get more use. We just haven’t seen one yet, at least not at scale.

Dockless bikes -- 44,000 of them -- are now in 25 U.S. cities. But ridership numbers have not been stellar. Photo: NACTO
Dockless bikes — 44,000 of them — are now in 25 U.S. cities. But ridership has been low. Photo: NACTO

2. Large station-based bike-share systems account for an overwhelming majority of trips

Overall bike-share ridership grew 25 percent last year, but only a few cities have bike-share networks that are genuinely useful for transportation. …

3. Low ridership could spell bigger problems for dockless bike-share

… Even in China, where dockless bike-share systems do account for a large number of trips, the industry is undergoing convulsions, with high-profile bankruptcies provoking questions about the long-term sustainability of the business model.