Bike Sharing Regulations Roll Into Dallas, Other U.S. Cities

Recently, city officials in Dallas, Texas pushed for tighter regulations on bike-sharing. Bike-sharing began in Dallas in August 2017, but when the city began to see up to 20,000 bikes on its streets, city government looked to regulate the increasing numbers of bikes in public areas. Dallas faces a unique problem – the city has more bikes than either New York City or Seattle.

In January of this year, Dallas’ city manager, T.C. Broadnax, sent a letter to the five bike-sharing companies in the city with a warning: “[the city] may be left with no choice but to begin removing bicycles in its rights of way, sidewalks, and trails…” Dallas’ government seems to be concerned that bike-sharing companies in the city are using a “dockless” approach, which means that bikes can be left within a certain area of the city instead of the customer returning the bike to a designated location. These dockless bikes will eventually be picked up or used by another customer.

The city has created a plan, which officials hope will be voted on this month, in an attempt to solve perceived bike-sharing issues. The plan includes a licensing fee for companies and for the registration of each bike. Dallas is intending to limit the growth of bike-sharing companies and their areas of operation by increasing their costs. The plan also includes a two-hour grace period for companies to pick up bikes after a complaint is made.

Dallas is not the only city looking to curb these popular services. In May 2018, the city of Los Angeles began looking at regulations for bike-sharing and electric scooters. Discussions included limiting companies to a maximum of 2,500 bikes or scooters within the city, as well as requiring bikes or scooters to be locked up after use.

Los Angeles already has a bike-sharing program offered through its own public transit system, but it is less popular than bike-sharing in other cities (averaging about one trip a day per bike). Los Angeles is looking to expand its service area to promote more riders as well as to reduce costs for riders, but this could have implications for private bike-sharing companies looking to enter the market.

Other cities have taken hardline approaches to the issue. Highland Park, another city in Texas, passed an ordinance which authorizes city workers to pick up bicycles left overnight, and bike-sharing companies must pay a fine to get them back. Bikes not claimed within 15 days are sold at public auction.

Even as issues arise for some cities, others are beginning to take a more nuanced approach or to embrace bike-sharing, such as Montgomery, Alabama, which passed an ordinance this week to introduce regulated bike-sharing in August 2018. Hartford, Connecticut is partnering with the bike-sharing company LimeBike. Hartford officials see the potential in these bikes to reduce pollution and traffic in the city as well as to promote exercise.

Companies such as Uber and Lyft are also getting into the bike-sharing market. On June 4, 2018, Lyft announced its acquisition of the bike-sharing management company Motivate, which manages bike-sharing in New York, San Francisco, and Portland. Their programs are all dock-based, but they are planning to test a dockless program in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

With the exponential growth of these bike-sharing companies, cities may regulate these programs (in the same manner that cities have sought to regulate ride-sharing, home-sharing, and scooter sharing). Dallas is scheduled to vote on the issue on June 27, and the outcome could have consequences for the future of this mode of transportation in other cities.

Photo from LimeBike Press Kit

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