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Will Chicago’s DoBi Providers Be Offering Monthly or Yearly Membership Options?

4:37 PM CDT on May 9, 2018

Checking out LimeBikes in Auburn-Gresham. Photo: Bill Savage

Currently the three dockless bike-share ("DoBi") companies participating in the six-month pilot on the Far South Side are only offering per-ride rentals. Ofo and Pace (by Zagster) charge $1 per half hour to use their non-electric bikes, while LimeBike's electrical-assist cycles cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents for each minute of use.

This morning a Streetsblog reader asked whether there are any plans for the companies to offer monthly or annual memberships. Divvy, Chicago's docked bike system, charges $99 a year. (One-time $5 Divvy for Everyone annual memberships are available to residents making $35,310 a year or less.)

I checked in with the three DoBi providers to ask if they had any plans to roll out passes or memberships in Chicago. An Ofo spokesperson didn't have an update on the subject, but the company currently offers two-day and one-month, at $4 and $20, respectively, in other cities.

In many cities and towns, LimeBike sells "LimePrime" monthly passes for its non-electric bikes for $29.95, including $100 in ride credits (The passes are $14.95, including 100 ride credits, for college and university students, faculty, and staff with a valid ".edu" email address.) Chicago manager Jessie Lucci said they're looking into membership plans for their electric cycles as well. However, she says, "Currently, [the Chicago Department of Transportation's] pilot permit creates uncertainty around whether we will still be operating in Chicago in a year."

The CDOT rules only allow 50 bikes per company if cycles that only have wheel locks are used, 250 if "lock-to" bikes with built in U-locks or cables are deployed, and all cycles must be lock-to models after July 1. LimeBike and Ofo use wheel-lock bikes, while Pace cycles have cable locks.

"Our goal is to be able to provide Chicago with a multi-modal fleet that would incorporate our current... membership plan, but due to fleet size limitations, we are only offering our e-bikes," Lucci said via email. "We chose to offer e-bikes because of their ease [of use] and affordability -- residents can get where they need to go faster and cheaper than other forms of transportation, which best fit the needs of the pilot area in which we’re operating." Destinations on the Far South Side tend to be farther apart from each other than in parts of the city with a higher population density.

Zagster spokeswoman Danielle Toboni also said the limited duration of the pilot means they won't be offering annual memberships at this point, but they are selling monthly passes, which include unlimited 60-minute rides for $29. (The passes are $14.50 for students with a valid ".edu" address.) Toboni said the company will also be launching "additional support for low-income riders" in the coming weeks. CDOT's permitting guidelines require the companies to make their cycles available to residents who don't have credit cards or smartphones.

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