Dockless bike-share pilot program begins in D.C.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) launched a new pilot program testing out the dockless bike-share concept on Wednesday.

The program will feature three companies and is similar to the Capital Bikeshare in that it allows people to rent bicycles for short commutes, but differs in the pickup and drop-off method.

Whereas Capital Bikeshare has set stations where people pickup and drop-off bikes, dockless bike-share allows people to pickup and drop-off bikes wherever they may be.

"The bikes are essentially their own docks. They can go anywhere," said Jason Wilde, a new market launcher with LimeBike, one of the two companies that launched Wednesday.

"You can take these bikes anywhere in the city," added Jillian Irvin, the head of the U.S. Government Affairs team with Mobike, the other company.

Both companies operate by using GPS technology in the bikes and an app on a smartphone. A person would open the app, set up an account, and it would show you the location of the bikes.

With Mobike, someone can reserve a bike for up to 15-minutes, but cannot with LimeBike.

The person would then approach a bike and unlock it by scanning one of the QR codes on the bike.

Both companies said they are offering free rides until the end of the month, after which the standard rate will be $1 for the first 30 minutes.

Now, since there are no designated docking sites, the companies urge riders, when they are done, to leave the bikes in a normal bike rack or in a spot that does not block pedestrian or vehicle traffic.

In Mobike's situation, there is a credit score system that punishes bad bike parkers.

"The next person that comes behind you to use the bike can rate your parking job. So if you did not do a parking job, your credit score goes down and your next ride becomes more expensive," said Irvin.

Both companies said if a person continuously does a bad job parking their bike, they could be banned from using the app. They add that they will have teams to track their bikes' positions and ensure they're parked properly and that they are distributed across all 8 wards.

A third company, Spin, will also be taking part in the pilot program which will last until April 2018.