As neon-bright rental bicycles proliferate, spreading along transit routes to the suburbs, some see transportation progress while others see reasons to complain.
Jared White, city of Dallas bicycle transportation manager, said the number of rental bikes has reached 15,000 to 20,000 since summer and the market may soon get its sixth bike-sharing company.
“Dallas went from a nonbiking city to a biking city overnight,” he said. “People weren’t used to seeing bikes or people riding bikes all the time, so it was a fast change.”
Customers use apps to locate and rent the bikes, which cost $1 per hour. The technology doesn’t require docking stations, so riders leave them behind wherever finished for other customers to find.
The leaving behind part has sparked many complaints, prompting Highland Park to adopt the area’s first bike-sharing regulations in December. University Park and Dallas officials are expected to consider options in February.
Frequent concerns include broken or vandalized bikes as well as ones left blocking sidewalks, piled on landscaping, or heavily clustered in parks and along trails.
Highland Park town administrator Bill Lindley theorized bikes left in his community are being ridden from downtown by tourists, many of whom find themselves tired out by the 300-foot elevation difference.
“There’s a reason we are called Highland,” Lindley said.
Highland Park’s ordinance prohibits placement of bikes for rent in the town and provides for impoundment of those left by a vendor or its customers. Vendors could face fees of up to $100 per bike, and bikes not picked up after 15 days could be auctioned off.
“We are not opposed to the bikes at all,” Highland Park Mayor Joel Williams said. “We just don’t want them left all over the place like litter.”
Town officials are holding off on assessing fees until February and, even then, are hopeful fees can be avoided.
“What we are after is compliance, voluntary compliance,” said Lindley, adding so far vendors sound willing to cooperate.
Geotracking technology allows them to know where bikes have been left, and apps can be used to alert customers not to leave them in certain areas, he said.
Options for Dallas could include limiting the number of vendors, bikes per vendor, and bikes per square mile and setting rules on where bikes can be parked and how long they can sit in one location, White said. And rules could vary by area.
Dallas doesn’t want to overregulate the bike-sharing companies, White said. “We want them to be successful, because we are getting good comments as well.”
White said he sees riders using the bikes to access Dallas Area Rapid Transit and residents benefiting their health and the environment by choosing an alternative to travel by car.
Dallas looked at offering a bike-sharing program using docking stations, but such a system with 400 bikes would take $6 million over five years to launch and get self-sustaining, White said. “That’s a lot of money especially for not that many bikes.”