Convenience or Obstruction? DC Residents Sound Off on Dockless Bikes

by Nena Perry-Brown

Convenience or Obstruction? DC Residents Sound Off on Dockless Bikes: Figure 1
Mobikes parked in DC.

Chances are that you have used one or seen one around town. Orange, green and yellow bikes parked virtually anywhere, which can sometimes mean odd places like the middle of the sidewalk.

Since dockless bikeshare companies began operating in DC in September, the bicycles have served as a convenient mode of transportation as well as the object of frustration, even inspiring a Popville series on appalling parking practices.

Yesterday evening, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and a handful of ANCs in Ward 2 co-hosted a town hall about the dockless bikeshare pilot program to get feedback from the community.

DDOT is testing out dockless bikeshare as a supplement to the regional Capital Bikeshare program, which has been in operation in DC for seven years. Because the city’s regulations have no guidance on how dockless bicycle companies should work, the marketplace was essentially opened up for seven months in order for the companies to test things out.

The companies (Mobike, ofo, Jump, LimeBike and Spin) are permitted to operate their systems in DC and are not being charged; all but Jump have close to the maximum 400 bikes currently available throughout the city. DDOT is collecting monthly data reports from each company and wants to see what impact, if any, the competition has on Capital Bikeshare usage and revenue.

DDOT representative Sam Zimbabwe explained that by the pilot’s conclusion in April, the agency hopes to have amassed a significant amount of feedback from the community and to finalize recommended approaches to the issues of whether a regulatory framework need be established, including maximum number of bikes and costs to bikeshare operators and how to better regulate proper parking of the bikes.

And the attendees of the meeting ensured that DDOT, the ANCs and the bikeshare companies had plenty of feedback to start with.

Convenience or Obstruction? DC Residents Sound Off on Dockless Bikes: Figure 2
Spin’s parking guide

Irresponsible parking was one of the primary frustrations discussed on Tuesday evening. “We’re finding them in front of our condominium, abandoned; I cannot describe the urge to go out there and heave those things into a lane of traffic during rush hour,” one attendee said to applause.

Suggestions ranged from removing bicycle kickstands to discourage people from leaving the bikes where they may be obstructions to companies utilizing their tracking systems to enforce penalties on riders who flout parking regulations. After one attendee shared a story of trying to move a bike from the sidewalk only to have it fall apart, another attendee concurred about the low value of the bikes. “When you have an asset that is valued at $0, the company will not take care of it, and I think we’re seeing that in terms of the companies not following up on problems.”

Convenience or Obstruction? DC Residents Sound Off on Dockless Bikes: Figure 3
Convenience or Obstruction? DC Residents Sound Off on Dockless Bikes: Figure 4
Two panels from LimeBike’s parking guide

Bikeshare company Jump seemed to be the least-offensive bikeshare alternative to many in the audience. “Our bikes have a U-lock in them; all users are required to lock their bikes to fixed objects like racks or street signs,” Nelle Pierson explained to scattered applause, emphasizing that the integrated lock differentiates Jump from the other bikeshare alternatives. “It is an easy fix. DDOT could require that of all the companies.” Pierson and the bikeshare rep for ofo also went on the record to call on DDOT to invest further in providing bike racks throughout the city.

The desire for more DDOT investment was echoed in other ways throughout the evening, with community members requesting that DDOT prioritize improving the city’s protected bike infrastructure and basic road maintenance in order to encourage more residents to ride. The dockless bikeshare pilot period will conclude in late April, with recommendations implemented the following month.

See other articles related to: dockless bikes, ddot, biking, bikeshare, bicycle lanes, anc 2f, anc 2e, anc 2b, anc 2a

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/destruction_and_obstruction_dc_residents_respond_to_dockless_bikes/13330

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