Opinion: Dockless bike sharing creating chaos

My immediate response when I heard about dockless bike share was “More butts on bikes, great.“ Then I started to ask questions. “So what do you do with it when you’re done?” “I could just leave it anywhere?… that doesn’t sound like a good idea.”

Dockless bike sharing launched in the United States this year, but is it a good thing? As of August 2017, Seattle became the first city in the United States to try dockless bike share. In September, a dockless bike share launched in D.C.

This bike share program is referred to as the “Uber” of bike sharing. Here is the concept behind dockless: You download an app, it locates a bike near you, you unlock the wheel with the app, and you pay roughly $1.00 for 30 minutes of use (this can differ based on the bike share company), park it when you’re done, manually lock it. That’s it. Definitely sounds affordable and more convenient than finding a bike share docking station and hoping there is a bike available, or hoping that a station has a parking spot available for the bike you have rented and are done with.

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If you look at China there are over 40 dockless bike share companies currently, with over 350,000 bikes and growing daily. But the problems that dockless bike shares have create have been reported multiple times. Bikes are left in the middle of sidewalks so that pedestrians cannot get to their destinations, which is especially a problem for senior citizens trying to walk with grocery carts, strollers and rascals. Bikes are being left basically everywhere – in huge bike piles, in trees, dumped in rivers, garbage cans – you name it and a dockless bike has probably been parked there in China.

So, how is Seattle doing with their new program? According to a recent Seattle Times report it’s going about the same as in China – dockless bikes are being parked irresponsibly.

And how about D.C.? You guessed it! In October, the Washington Post reported the same problems.

You will always have people who abuse programs or who don’t care to be responsible adults. But there is another problem this “Uber-style” bike share is causing. Not only is it creating another level of irresponsibility in busy cities, but it is not good for the commuter cycling community. Aggression on the streets towards cyclist continues to increase and having these bikes laying everywhere is just furthering that anger towards our community, further adding to the negativity anti-cyclists have. 

Docks create a place where you have to put something away. People are lazy and I include myself in that category, I love convenience and when things are easy. If you give someone the opportunity to be lazy, the majority of the population is probably going to just leave that bike parked in the middle of a pedestrian sidewalk. It’s naive to think that people will park things appropriately. If we continue to grow this program in the United States, are we destined for the large-scale problem China is currently facing.

What do you think about dockless bike share? Does your city have a dockless bike program? Have you tried it? Have you seen the chaos of bikes in weird places? Let’s discuss below!

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