Now that Uber and Lyft own bikeshare, what will happen to open data? - Mobility Lab

Bikeshare data has been one of the best sources for places like Mobility Lab to track the ways people are moving around through the transportation system.

Capital Bikeshare in Washington D.C., for instance, releases its data quarterly – like clockwork – and hackers throughout the region, most often as part of our Transportation Techies meetup group dig in to examine ways they can tell ridership stories and identify trends from that data.

This data is, needless to say, super helpful towards understanding the demand for such a system and how to tweak it to make it better for people.

But what does it mean now that Uber and Lyft are buying bikeshare systems faster than a dog on an evening walk gobbles up a chicken leg left carelessly in the gutter?

Uber recently bought the shared electric bikeshare company Jump. And now Lyft is allegedly in talks to keep up with the Joneses and buy Motivate, which operates Capital Bikeshare, Ford GoBike in San Francisco, New York’s Citi Bike, Portland’s Biketown, Chicago’s Divvy, and many others.

This sounds like an amazing opportunity to help bring bikes into the big time, increase people’s awareness that the option might be a good one, and do something that regular old biking has never been able to do well – bring the share of bike commuting way up above modeshare levels that typically hover in the 5-percent range in many places.

If there’s a dark side – with unanswered questions – it’s the fact that Uber and Lyft have never been friends of opening their ridership data. We get it, they are in competition with each other and don’t want to share their proprietary information.

But, you know what, getting the transportation system right – for once – in this country is a lot more important than the ride-hail giants getting to keep their trade secrets hidden away in the Empire’s vault (reference to Darth Vader’s team in Star Wars).

We would like to think this is no big deal and Uber and Lyft will do the right thing by agreeing to leave all bikeshare data as open as it has been thus far.

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