Spin launches first city-sanctioned dockless bike sharing in Bay Area

Spin, a company focused on bringing the stationless bike sharing model to the U.S. after its continued success in Asia, is launching in South San Francisco today (as it planned to last month), making it the first ever to get official city approval in the Bay Area to launch a dockless bike share program. Spin already launched in Seattle earlier this year, and will now put an initial fleet of 125 bikes into active use in South San Francisco during a two week pilot, with plans to grow to around 500 or more bikes after that.

Spin’s bikes are solar-powered for their onboard electronics and locks, have built-in GPS for locating via the app, unlock by scanning a QR code with your phone and self-lock at the end of trips for a simple rental experience. The bikes are going to be seeded in South San Francisco at 22 locations initially, and then distribution will be managed when necessary by a local team employed by Spin, which will also be watching usage patters to figure out how best to deploy them in the future.

Spin raised $8 million in Series A funding in May, and has already deployed fleets in Dallas and Seattle, with a small pilot also operating in Mountain View. It’s one of many startups vying for supremacy in the emerging North American dockless bike share market, which also includes companies like Social Bicycles, LimeBike, Canadian startup Dropbike and more.

Chinese dockless bike sharing is a huge funding driver, with most of the attention focused on Mobile and Ofo. The success of these has inspired a lot of fresh activity in the space in North America recently, and now it looks like this could lead to an eventual international clash, as Mobile has announced its intentions to grow internationally with its latest new funds raised.

Dock-free bike sharing has big advantages in terms of cost of infrastructure vs. dock-based bike sharing (like Ford GoBike, freshly launched in the Bay Area, too). It also can adapt more easily to changing demand patterns, since the fleets can be redistributed at will. The model comes with challenges though: theft and vandalism are an ever-present concern, and it’s not yet clear how those factors will affect the model’s overall efficacy in different parts of North America.

Spin’s city-blessed entry into the Bay Area is definitely a win for the startup, however, since the tech heavy region is likely to be fairly rife with early adopters. Spin also plans to roll out to more cities before the end of this summer.