Bike Sharing is becoming one of the more popular sharing programs to sweep across mid – large sized cities in America, Phoenix being no exception. The idea is simple enough – the ability to rent a bike for a certain rate for a certain amount of time. You pay to use the bike for transport or fun and return it at the end of your contracted time.
Companies have different operating procedures for this however, and that is where this program seems to go off the rails a bit. Whereas some companies have specific pick up and return docking stations, others are “dockless” – meaning they depend on GPS tracking and smart phone technology to allow users to find bikes near them and to therefore return the bikes wherever they are when they are done (as long as you follow all legal parking rules for the bike). While the latter format appeals to many, especially today’s millennials, due to its convenience, the former is easier on the cities playing host to these sharing companies.
Phoenix is no stranger to the bike share world, but they have recently expanded and allowed some new vendors in, and that seems to be where the issues are starting to come forward for them. The 2 bike share companies that are causing the issues in Phoenix are Lime Bike and OFO, who have been introduced in Scottsdale and Tempe recently as well. These are 2 bike share companies that are firmly of the belief that bike sharing should be as easy as possible for those that wish to partake of the service, and are therefore dockless.
As on might guess, these bikes are being discovered everywhere, and are sparking city wide debates as to whether these so called returned bikes are to be considered litter or not. The issues do not seem to be with bikes that are left outside of buildings or in parking lots, but Arizona citizens do appear to take issue with bikes that are being found on corners, near bus stops and simply in the middle of side walks, not to mention spread all over town, on grass, in yards, and the complaints go on and on.
Part of what makes dockless systems possible is the technology associated with them. These bikes have locks to be applied to end a user’s time with them, which ends the charge and sends a notice to the company and the apps used by consumers as to where bikes are located and available. For someone who is trying to walk down the sidewalk and encountering one of these locked bikes, moving them yourself to simply get them out of the way is not an easy option, and is sparking resentment and complaints among those non-bike share people who are now being affected by the dockless share programs.
As the complaints rack up, city officials in Phoenix and its surrounding cities are working to find an answer. Where they want to keep the bike share options open to all, and keep new vendors constantly coming, they also want to make sure that it is remaining a plus to the cities, and not starting to be a negative to any citizens. They have stressed that the companies that are dockless do track their bikes and try to make sure they are not parked illegally or left anywhere that could be inconvenient.
City officials in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe ask for some more patience and time as the kinks are worked out of this part of the dockless bike share system. However, in deference to the obviously still growing issue, many of the officials involved in city transportation decisions have made it known that they are working together across city lines and with the companies to try to come up with a universal answer that will benefit all, and stop the shared problems of bike sharing.