DOT sues to stop privately-run Citi Bike rival JOCO

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New York City is suing to hit the brakes on a privately-run new rival to Citi Bike that is renting out e-bikes across Manhattan.

The Department of Transportation hit transit start-up JOCO with the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday, saying it is defying city regulators by refusing to comply with a cease and desist order — and is now asking a judge to step in.

“Despite having received a cease and desist directive from DOT, Joco is proceeding to implement its business plan in violation of the law,” the suit said.

“The City is therefore entitled to an injunction to stop Joco’s unlawful conduct, as well as civil penalties for its past and ongoing violations.”

JOCO deployed the first of what it promised would be “hundreds” of e-bikes last week at 30 docking stations on private properties across Manhattan.

The company’s founders — who are both named Jonathan Cohen — have claimed they are following the law by keeping their stations on private property.

But DOT administrative rules explicitly require agency authorization to operate a bicycle sharing system — a power that is further vested by 2020 state law authorizing local regulation of such vehicles, the lawsuit argues.

Furthermore, the city’s 2012 contract with Citi Bike, now a subsidiary of Lyft, gives the eight-year-old bike-share program exclusive control within its service area, the suit said.

JOCO “is expressly positioned to compete directly with Citi Bike,” which has 4,500 juiced-up two-wheelers around the city, the court docs charge.

Representatives for the city did not immediately return requests for comment.

JOCO attorney Matthew Daus said he plans to argue in court that the company “does not operate a public bike share system, and the NYC DOT has no jurisdiction over what happens on private property.”

“In our view, no permits or approvals are required from NYC DOT, and the DOT does not even have a process in place for JOCO to apply for,” Daus said in a statement. “The city is going to bat for tech giant Lyft against a home grown tiny start-up. We are honored to be representing David in this battle against Goliath.”

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