Is e-scooter-share cannibalizing bike-share?

Two piece of news have been published in the last couple of days. The easy conclusions being that the rise of e-scooter sharing signed the end of bike-sharing. But how true is that?

First an inventory of the private transit services available in Denver, CO: ride-hailing with Uber and Lyft, bike-share with B-Cycle (docked), Jump and Lime, e-scooter-share with Bird, Lime, Jump and Lyft. And maybe some are missing… Use of the B-cycle service, one of the first in the US (launched in 2010) “peaked five years ago in Denver, with the number of rides declining 9 percent between 2014 and 2017.” With the introduction of all these new dockless options in 2018, the city officials expect the decline to carry on, even if they are still waiting for the statistics.

In Saint-Louis, MO, you can find ridehailing with Uber and Lyft, bike-share with Lime (ofo stopped operations), e-scooter-share with Bird and Lime. Having started with regular bikes, Lime is now willing to replace it with e-scooters only, has they seem to have more success among users.

Is it the end of bike-share? In most cities where bike-share services have been successful – Paris, NYC, DC – the arrival of e-scooter did not impact the ridership numbers. Furthermost, these publicly funded business-models have survive more than a decade, while the dockless services, whether it is a bike, e-bike or e-scooter one, still have to evolve towards a profitable model.

The case of Lime in Saint Louis shouldn’t be an evidence of a bike-share fail. When its concurrent Bird launched, Lime admits that there was a “dip in the number of bikes out on the road”… and they just chose to replace those with e-scooters. Lime’s bike-share was just not usable anymore, as the density was too low.

We should take these news cautiously, as I believe they are taken under the light of the e-scooter trend. We need feedbacks and stats on longer periods to place the two modes, and see if they are completely overlapping. Plus it is not only about usage, but about financial sustainability as well.

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