Hark, the age of the non-car form of transportation has dawned. On Friday, The Information reported that ride-hailing giant Lyft is nearing a deal to acquire Motivate, the largest bike-share program operator in the United States, for $250 million.
If finalized, the transaction would give Lyft, currently valued at $11 billion and running cars in more than 400 cities around the US, an even heftier role to play in a changing urban transit landscape. A Lyft spokesperson declined to comment on the report. Motivate did not respond to a request for comment.
Yes, the race to control every part of the urban transportation system is on. And thanks to the rising popularity of bike- and scooter-shares, the game ain’t just about cars anymore. That makes Motivate an important player. The company’s eight bike-share programs—including the country’s largest, New York’s CitiBike, its oldest, DC’s Capital Bikeshare, plus Chicago’s Divvy, San Francisco’s FordGoBike, and Boston’s Hubway—account for at least three-quarters of last year’s 35 million bike-share trips. That number is up a whopping 25 percent since 2016.
Then there are the big-money dockless bike-share upstarts, like Jump, Lime, and Ofo. (Motivate has mulled its own dockless bike service.) And now, shared electric scooters. In the past three months, Los Angeles-based startup Bird has dropped into San Francisco, Austin, Nashville, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Now, it’s reportedly raising a $150 million funding round and is valued at a unicorn-y $1 billion. Lime, Spin, Skip, and newcomer GOAT (do not ask) have joined the scooting fray. Lyft, too, is exploring its own scooter service, at least in San Francisco.
Scooping up Motivate would also put Lyft in direct competition with an old pal: Uber. Under the leadership of new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, the $62 billion company acquired Brooklyn-based bike-share company Jump for $200 million in April. Uber has announced partnerships with mobile-ticketing company Masabi and car-share platform Getaround, allowing riders in select markets to purchase public transit tickets, car rentals, and bike rides through its app.
Lyft may have just bought itself a bit of an advantage. As other companies hack their way through city halls, Motivate enjoys exclusive bike-share contracts with a bunch of biggies, including New York, San Francisco, and Boston. The Information reports that Motivate doesn’t believe the Lyft acquisition would affect these contracts.
If the deal goes through, Lyft will have plenty to figure out. But if it can crack the logistics, it’ll be more than a ride-sharing company. It’ll be a transportation company, in the most modern, wonderfully newfangled sense of the word.