May 17, 2018

The Dockless Bikeshare Hype

Angie Schmitt at Streetsblog punctures the balloon:

While there’s been no shortage of stories about the untidiness of dockless bike-share, information about how useful the new systems are has been hard to come by.
A new report from the National Association of City Transportation Officials sheds some light on the situation, and so far the performance of the dockless bike-share systems is underwhelming.

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From Plantetizen:
San Diego Merchants Call for Halt to Dockless Bikeshare Operations
Public bikeshare arrived in San Diego in 2014. Last month, three companies unleashed thousands of dockless bikes, cluttering sidewalks in three business districts to the chagrin of merchants who want a time-out so the city can develop regulations.

Discover ® Bike, operating in partnership with the city of San Diego, was the first to offer bikeshare in California’s second largest city, with docking stations opening on October 30, 2014. Customers knew where to find bikes and where to drop them off. Life was orderly in the bikeshare business.
Then came dockless bikeshare companies LimeBike and Ofo on February 15. A week later, Mobike arrived. Santa Monica-based Bird, maker of electric (stand-up) scooters, beat them all, arriving in mid-January.
[San Diego Union-Tribune video and news article: “Is Southern California’s ‘dockless’ electric scooter fad a public safety hazard? Mark Platte and environment reporter Joshua Emerson Smith discuss the abundance of ‘dockless’ bikes and electric scooters in San Diego.” March 6.]
“Merchant groups from the Gaslamp to Mission Hills and La Jolla have expressed frustration with the dockless bikes since thousands of them began arriving…,” reports David Garrick for the San Diego Union-Tribune on March 8.

They are complaining that bikes are strewn about the sidewalks of high-traffic business districts and that community leaders got no notice the flood of bikes was coming, depriving them of a chance to weigh in on possible regulations.
“We completely understand the concept of a dockless system, however there needs to be more control and order in communities that are highly congested and have high pedestrian usage,” said Chris Gomez, manager of the Little Italy Association.

The new bikeshare operators have supporters in the environmental community who welcome the new bikes, seeing them as alternatives to motor vehicles.

“They have become an overnight sensation,” said Nicole Capretz, executive director of Climate Action Campaign. “It has changed everything about how people view our transportation future.”

Origins of the problem
“San Diego’s dockless bike experience has been more of a free-for-all than in most cities, because San Diego couldn’t make an exclusive deal with one operator without violating a previous exclusive deal with a rental company that requires bikes to be returned to docking stations,” explains Garrick.
Story continues here.
Price Tags: So what happens if (when) dockless bikes show up in Vancouver? Can the City regulate them, or are we in the same situation as San Diego – committed to a contractual relationship with Mobi that prevents approving any competition (and hence regulation) of dockless bikes?

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From the Seattle Times via Guest
Several months into the transportation experiment, three bike-share companies have already scattered some 4,000 bikes around the city. And, boy, are they scattered

“What I think has sadly happened is we didn’t teach the users on the etiquette how to properly leave the bikes after use. I’ve seen too many sidewalks left impassable with bikes strewn about. I can’t imagine how someone with a wheelchair or walker would deal with blocked sidewalks and an inability to move these heavy pieces of equipment.”—Kevin Clark

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