Dockless bike shares are here. Are cities ready for them?
October 8, 2017 5:50 AM   Subscribe

Dockless bike shares have arrived. Cities from Seattle to DC to London now host competing bikeshare systems with no set parking areas or dock spaces. Between bad user behavior and a growing backlash from San Francisco to Singapore to Sydney the future looks bright for #DocklessBikeFails.
posted by peeedro (91 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
In Melbourne they recently had to fish 40+ of the Obikes out of the river.

I live near Sydney Uni and UTS, so they're everywhere. I was tempted to try one out... but the helmet issue. How do you not get head lice? I don't want to put a random helmet on my head. And sure, I could carry my own, but then I might as well be riding my own bike. If the primary virtue is the ability to spontaneously decide to take one on a short errand, they need to get me past that hurdle.
posted by web-goddess at 5:58 AM on October 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


I can’t find a more recent news item in English, but these have just been banned in Amsterdam this past week as being against the city’s by-laws. Old link.
posted by rubbish bin night at 6:00 AM on October 8, 2017


They recently got rid of the docks for our bike shares and just have you lock the bike to itself next to the kiosk. I can't find an article but I seem to remember reading that they'd only lost one or two over the course of the first year of operation.
posted by octothorpe at 6:16 AM on October 8, 2017


We've had dockless for a week in DC, and already I've had to move 3 of them out of the way of doors they were blocking (2 parking garages and a grocery store), and seen them parked in the middle of sidewalks.

Maybe I'm clueless, but this just seems like another way to use the IoT to foist aggravation and effort related to a business onto consumers and innocent bystanders.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:28 AM on October 8, 2017 [19 favorites]


Super annoying to wake up one morning, commute into work, and observe dozens of bright yellow bikes lined up blocking sidewalks and pedestrian ramps. I like the premise, but not everyone is able to go around or move your shit, dudes. Also, the city is not any more bike-friendly or bike-safe, which needs to improve alongside availability of we are to increase bike access.

It'll be amusing when they all get infected by a worm from 2003, I suppose.
posted by Existential Dread at 6:35 AM on October 8, 2017 [6 favorites]


On one hand, yeah, these are not treated or placed carefully in my part of Seattle.

On the other, I was never going to see a docked bike share bike down in my unfashionable, low density, lower income part of town. Now there are probably two or three within a block of me.
posted by wotsac at 6:39 AM on October 8, 2017 [15 favorites]


Some people wonder why libertarianism has never really caught on.

This is why.
posted by tommasz at 6:46 AM on October 8, 2017 [27 favorites]


If living among humans has taught me anything, it's that any product or service that relies on customers being considerate or using any level of common sense is doomed to fail.
posted by Servo5678 at 6:48 AM on October 8, 2017 [89 favorites]


As someone who was recently in China, it's really interesting to see a concept that has caught on very quickly and become popular stumble elsewhere. For the most part, I saw dockless bikes outside of almost every metro station in reasonable arrangement. I'm sure they have the same bad user behaviour issues but can afford to dedicate more human labour into mitigating the issue.

I would not be surprised to see this become a staple in China while it flounders elsewhere.
posted by tksh at 7:06 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


I live in Shenzhen and woke up one morning about a year ago and found MoBikes everywhere.

I liked the idea, put down a deposit of 300 rmb (about $45 USD) and ride quite frequently. I can ride about 1-2 miles for about 2 rmb (30 cents USD).

But just yesterday, after getting off a bike, I received a promo on my iPhone: one month usage for 2 rmb total. This allows me 120 minutes per use.

It's undoubtedly in response to the many copycats that have popped up here. I bet 5 or more copycats have emerged, and they've flooded the city with their also dockless bikes.

It's a nightmare. My caution to any US cities considering this: police these mofo companies. They're after the quick hit. And the bikes here in China are built to last about a year, I'd say. Mostly poor workmanship, materials, and quality.

I like the idea but it got out of hand here, and I urge EXTREME CAUTION if you're dealing with any Chinese companies; not saying others would be any better, but my experience with Chinese operators is they're copycat whizzes and don't care about anything but the cash.
posted by lometogo at 7:10 AM on October 8, 2017 [9 favorites]


People are jerks.
posted by matildaben at 7:16 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


UBER FOR BIKES

bikes are good

more bikes are better

late stage capitalism, zero regulation, with no consequences of how you treat the urban environment - and safety of your riders - with disposable bikes - is bad

mkaay
posted by lalochezia at 7:37 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


As someone who was recently in China, it's really interesting to see a concept that has caught on very quickly and become popular stumble elsewhere.
6 months earlier...
You see thousands of bikes parked everywhere around the city and many are not working because nobody takes care of them – the city’s beauty has been destroyed.”

Tensions spilled over in Shenzhen earlier this year, when huge piles of share bikes began appearing in alleyways and vacant lots, dumped in their hundreds by persons unclear.
posted by joeyh at 7:42 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


Cities with a growth in cycling need a growth in infrastructure (bike racks) just yesterday the few racks were filled and I had to gamble that a fence would be safe to lock up. My one effort to get get racks at school was mired in politics and bureaucratic this and that, everyone agreed it was a good idea but seemed to drag on forever (in retrospect it was probably lightning fast at less than a year).
posted by sammyo at 7:49 AM on October 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


Funny that its hard to get expanded convenient bike parking, but vast expanses of car parking are no problem.
posted by Reverend John at 7:52 AM on October 8, 2017 [31 favorites]


Also, the city is not any more bike-friendly or bike-safe

Is this true though? I remember reading that an increased number of visible cyclists itself improves cyclist safety.

Personally, I haven't used the bikeshare bikes (I have my own bike, which is almost solely my means of transportation), but if they should result in increased bike usage, I welcome them. They are very cheap and accessible, and as someone else has pointed out they are found in low-income neighborhoods as well, which beats the previous docked version.

I do agree with you that they shouldn't be on the sidewalk, obstructing pedestrian access.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:00 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


WILL: You don't fly with the team?

SAM: Not this time. I had to return the rental car; that's why I was glad to get together again. One-way charges on rental cars are insane. I think if everybody drove one way, it'd all work out in the wash. What do you think?

WILL: I think every rental car in America would be at the Grand Canyon and the Tropicana.


-- The West Wing, "Game On"
posted by tzikeh at 8:06 AM on October 8, 2017 [16 favorites]


My main issue with the oBikes in London is that they're very, very heavy and very badly geared. It makes cycling them at much more than walking pace thoroughly unpleasant. They're also incredibly cheap - the bikes have started falling apart after only a few months. The Santander Cycles / Boris Bikes are a pleasure to ride in comparison, and also really well built. They also have a dedicated network of staff maintaining them and moving them around to meet demand. I've not seen that for the oBike scheme. I think there's now another operator in London which I haven't yet tried - hopefully their bikes are a bit better.

I like the idea - boris bikes are great, but don't extend anywhere near my house so are only useful for journeys in the city centre. It's unfortunate that these companies aren't willing to expend the full effort required for these schemes to be truly successful.
posted by leo_r at 8:10 AM on October 8, 2017


I've seen a few of these around town lately.

I can't wait to see how they survive being plowed into snowbanks during a typical Toronto winter.

I also can't wait to see how they survive typical Toronto bike thieves.


Actually, the quality of the bikes looks so poor, I think even the bike thieves won't touch them.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:13 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


If there is no bike rack where you're going, where exactly are you supposed to put them besides on the sidewalk?
posted by AFABulous at 8:17 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


I love the idea of bikeshare (although I never thought of that helmet lice thing, ugh). And at first here in Seattle it seemed like the bikes were being managed well. But this last week Ofo dumped what looks like 500 bikes along my normal commute route (northgate-greenlake-downtown), and they are *everywhere*. Even when lined up neatly along places where there is room on the sidewalk, they are overwhelming. And around Greenlake, they are being parked in the grass, which means that the city will have to move them to do parks maintenance.

Similar to the concerns raised above, it seems like these companies' business models are heavily based on 1) no concern (or repercussions) for the effects on infrastructure and 2) other people, either citizens or public employees, doing the work to keep them organized.

I don't know what the solution is, except somehow getting dedicated places for the bikes to be dropped off, but that means the city gives up real estate to private companies? I wonder if the companies are paying a fee to the city for these kinds of considerations.
posted by Gorgik at 8:31 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


As someone who saw the Mobike / Ofo / Hundreds of Copycats Explosion firsthand in China:

Prior to their introduction, Beijing had a municipal shared bike scheme with docking stations that was used a bit, but not much. The new bikeshares have caused an explosion in use that (especially with the increasingly cleaner air) is unambiguously a good thing for public health and is generally really heartening. Also - while I suspect that most users switched from buses and the metro system - to the extent that people are switching from [inevitably single occupancy] cars, this has also been good for traffic.

Cons are covered pretty thoroughly upthread. Mostly, the bikes are miserable to ride (heavy, poorly maintained, impossible for tall users); a lot of users probably haven't ridden in years (the last time I saw a lot of people on bikes before this was over a decade ago), and combined with a short wheelbase, the lack of maintenance and office clothes for commuters, you get a lot of swerving, swaying, unpredictable riders in the road; riders use the bells CONSTANTLY, regardless of whether other road users are around; and the parking. I thought that nothing could be more annoying and inconsiderate than the tendancy of Beijing residents to park on the pavement, but you can tessellate bikes much more effectively to fill every space. That results in a lot more pedestrians walking in the road.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:33 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


The only people I've seen riding these in London are kids too young to have a credit card and the GPS/lock box clearly removed.

Is this true though? I remember reading that an increased number of visible cyclists itself improves cyclist safety.

That correlation exists, but many cycling campaigners consider the direction of causality to be the other way round: places where it is safer to ride attract more cyclists.
posted by grahamparks at 8:35 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


My typical Seattle experience has been:

Open app to find a cluster of like 10 bikes

Go there and there's maybe one there, are the others stuffed in an apartment building, who knows

Try another app, walk a block to where there's supposed to be a bike, it's not there

Try third app, finally get one

And then when I do find one that's where the app says it is, they're super heavy and way too short for anyone taller than 5'. If I'm lucky the seat adjustment will work and I can take it to the maximum extension and feel precarious instead of making my thighs ache from being way too low when I pedal.

At this point I'll use one if I'm going largely downhill and run across it on the way. Maybe.
posted by egypturnash at 8:35 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


In Toronto, we have an early version of a dockless system competing with an established docked system that is now run by the city's parking authority. I have a membership with the older system, and so far I haven't really had any incentive to switch. I like being able to pull up a transit app and know immediately what stations have bikes and whether my destination has open slots. I can see a theoretical advantage to being able to pick up and drop off a bike wherever you want, and that might become a reason to sign up once the new dockless system becomes more robust, but at the moment Toronto Bike Share is in no danger of losing my membership. There just aren't enough bikes around, and for the most part being able to drop off a bike wherever you want isn't super necessary now that docks are more plentiful around the city.
posted by chrominance at 8:39 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


I also can't wait to see how they survive typical Toronto bike thieves.

Older, docked bike schemes use bikes made to custom specifications so that none of their components are interchangeable with regular bikes. Combined with the extremely low price of riding them, few people would want the hassle of owning one of the bikes.

Separately, a lot of the copycats are attempts to collect sign-up fees, after which the owners walk away and no longer care what happens to the bikes.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:40 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm really surprised no one has suggested a "free market" solution to this.
Personally, I loathe this unregulated scorched-Earth approach to infastructure and would love to see a city-regulated system with docking stations all over.

However, if they want a free market solution, why not adjust the rates based on popularity of routes, so that it's cheaper to ride the bikes back to less popular locations, and more expensive to leave them in places where they're accumulating? Also, they could offer a credit for retriving bikes abandoned in remote places (basically a bounty).

Again, I'd prefer a system well managed by local government and paid for by taxes, I'm just surprised no one has proposed variable rates as a solution.

(I didn't read the full article so maybe this was mentioned)
posted by ethical_caligula at 8:49 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Montreal/Toronto docked bikes are basically street furniture you can ride. While they're a bit heavy (slightly lighter than my daily bike tho) and the Toronto ones are egregiously low geared, you can get them going at a fair old clip.

The dockless ones look like sub-Wal*Mart quality frames. They're a liability on wheels.
posted by scruss at 8:51 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


It might be a Mefite knee jerk, but I'm not keen on the idea.

In Boston, we have docked stations (same hardware as London and NYC). The stations are not easy to find from the phone app, even though they are well marked, but at least I only have to find a station once, and then it's easy to remember. To have to search for each individual bike would drive me insane.

What;s more, while the bikes may have onboard computers to deter theft and vandalism, they don't need them, which makes them much more resilient and useful for actual riding. On;y the stations have to stay online.

Also, the docking stations have become standard rendezvous points for meeting people.

And also, there's the politics. The stations give the system an air of permanence that dockless bikes don't, and they've been a godsend in getting past the silly notion that parking spots are sacred.
posted by ocschwar at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2017 [7 favorites]


I find the bikes irritating in practice (they're not aimed at me - I already own bikes and use those instead) but the problems of bikes being left inside apartment blocks, and of bikes collecting in popular locations have both been largely solved, at least in China.

If you leave the bike somewhere stupid (or you forget to lock it, which was so common at first that many people relied on unlocked sharebikes for free transport), then you get penalised, up to account suspension. You've already paid the sign-up fee, so they'd prefer to suspend your account than lose stock. And anyway, a neighbour will retrieve the bike you abandoned sooner or later.

Bikes accumulating in popular spots is solved in the same way as for docked bike systems (which of course have the same problem) - the company sends a truck to collect half of them and redistribute them to popular starting locations. At least in China, this process is extremely cheap for the company, and the larger and more successful companies have a vested interest in maintaining a stock of useable bikes in useable locations.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:18 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


The BCycle bikes are good. The seat height adjustment is easy, and the bikes are almost always in reasonably good condition. It's rare to get one with a flat tire or a shifter that's broken. The phone app is usually correct on the bike count at each station. They aren't perfect, they are about 40 pounds weight and their 3 speeds aren't really low enough for a moderate hill.

The locking stations are quite expensive and complex to install, so that limits the expansion of the bike coverage.

Dockless:
BCycle is working on a dockless system: Dash. These have a giant U-lock stored at the basket, so it's easy to lock them to run into a store, or when the rider is done. (The current bike's built-in cable lock is hard to use, and is only for temporary locking during a trip. The front hub locks into the station slot after the ride.)

This dockless system can be set up for dropping the bikes anywhere, or only within a short distance from a designated station. The "anywhere" option seems like a good idea, but as the previous comments said, it could easily (or always?) become a real annoyance to local residents and pedestrians.

So the station-only method sounds good. The "station" can be as little as a bike rack and a sign. The stations would be cheap and easy to build.

Pedal assist e-bikes are in planning stages, too. I suppose these would need a real docking station to recharge.
posted by jjj606 at 9:49 AM on October 8, 2017


Someone was gonna drop a few hundred of these in NYC but they hadn't paid the requisite bribes and the city ran them off...
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:53 AM on October 8, 2017


Older, docked bike schemes use bikes made to custom specifications so that none of their components are interchangeable with regular bikes. Combined with the extremely low price of riding them, few people would want the hassle of owning one of the bikes.


Yeah, the Toronto version of the docked bikeshare is very popular here, and I don't think anyone has tried to steal any of them.

I don't think I've seen anyone riding the new dockless "Dropbikes,' but I've seen plenty around on the sidewalks. Honestly, if you were to steal one and take the locking mechanism off, you'd never be short of spare parts either. I'm not even sure you could be prosecuted for taking one. I think they'd count as "abandoned property" (the city will even come around and remove bikes that have been locked to municipal bike posts for too long). Perhaps I'll walk past my local obvious front for fencing stolen bikes (Professor Kenk's Stolenbikeatoreum and Crack Parlour) and see if any have turned up there yet.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:02 AM on October 8, 2017


6 months earlier...

You see thousands of bikes parked everywhere around the city and many are not working because nobody takes care of them – the city’s beauty has been destroyed.”

Tensions spilled over in Shenzhen earlier this year, when huge piles of share bikes began appearing in alleyways and vacant lots, dumped in their hundreds by persons unclear.
That's the interesting part! The bike companies, its users and city management in China are iterating though the problems rapidly and addressing those issues. It's a very quick cycle of evolution and acceptance of the concept. It reminds me of how Alipay and Wechat wallet evolve and became ubiquitous.

As someone living outside of that environment, it feels like watching a potential future unfold, watching an idea probe the norms of different places around the world and see which city is ready.
posted by tksh at 10:07 AM on October 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


As someone who is so pro-bike it's practically a sexual orientation, I'm just amused that there's brightly colored bikes all over Seattle and sometimes in surreal places like some kind of city-wide art installation.
posted by loquacious at 10:16 AM on October 8, 2017 [13 favorites]


I really get the desire to see these fail (I think MeFi skews towards "real" bike users, plus it's another irritating Like-Uber-But-For-$Variable scheme, but with Chinese characteristics - i.e. complete disregard for the commons).

But. In this instance, despite the disadvantages, this is fundamentally a scheme to "disrupt global warming" and "disrupt obesity and heart disease", rather than the more usual "disrupt an industry that's regulated for good albeit dull reasons" or "disrupt unions" that we're accustomed to. So I think it's worth fighting instinctual kneejerk hostility, at least until it's more clear whether these initiatives work in contexts outside China.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 10:18 AM on October 8, 2017 [22 favorites]


However, if they want a free market solution, why not adjust the rates based on popularity of routes, so that it's cheaper to ride the bikes back to less popular locations, and more expensive to leave them in places where they're accumulating? Also, they could offer a credit for retriving bikes abandoned in remote places (basically a bounty).

Mobike has a gamification-inspired points system that can be cashed in for free rides to encourage users to park legally and report problem bikes.
posted by peeedro at 10:20 AM on October 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


If there is no bike rack where you're going, where exactly are you supposed to put them besides on the sidewalk?
posted by AFABulous at 8:17 AM on October 8 [1 favorite +] [!]


park your vehicle in the vehicle parking space in the street, obviously.
posted by eustatic at 10:22 AM on October 8, 2017 [12 favorites]


Can anyone answer my question seriously? What is "parking legally" for dockless bikes? Won't they just take up all the room in bike racks and leave none for people who own their bike?
posted by AFABulous at 10:28 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Can anyone answer my question seriously? What is "parking legally" for dockless bikes

I'm not sure where in the US you live and what the rules on bike parking are, but in many countries there is little to say what is "illegal" parking for bikes (which is a big plus for the dockless business model). In the UK the local council will eventually remove bikes that are obviously abandoned, but it could take literally years.

However, working from the assumption that where you are, bikes need to be parked in bike racks to be legal: I'm not sure why you're prioritising "owned" bikes over "rented" bikes. If there are a lot of bikes, that's great, that's a lot of cyclists. If there aren't enough racks, that sucks, but the answer is to increase the number of racks, not decrease the number of bikes.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 10:39 AM on October 8, 2017 [9 favorites]


riders use the bells CONSTANTLY

Come on, noob. This is like sub-rule 177a in The Rules of biking. In addition to its use as a safety device, if you have a bell on your bike you must cheerily ring it every time you see another bike, every time you think about the fact that you are riding a bike, every time you realize that you're happy that you're riding a bike as well as any other time where ringing said bell may provide any amusement at all.

Please note that part 177b also allows and mandates bell ringing at any time where a high downhill velocity may create an interesting and impressive Doppler shift as a rider zooms by.

Please note that these rules do not govern nor recommend the use of squeeze-bulb horns or pressurized reservoir airhorns, and that many are thankful of this fact.
posted by loquacious at 11:11 AM on October 8, 2017 [20 favorites]


My city, Spokane, is moving towards some kind of bike sharing program, I am not sure where we will land. Our most popular bike route, the Centennial Trail, snakes back and forth over a river, and I am a little afraid that river is where many of the dockless bikes would end up. And we have a helmet law in our state, which is another problem.
posted by LarryC at 11:17 AM on October 8, 2017


In addition to its use as a safety device, if you have a bell on your bike you must cheerily ring it every time you see another bike, every time you think about the fact that you are riding a bike, every time you realize that you're happy that you're riding a bike as well as any other time where ringing said bell may provide any amusement at all

This... would still be far less that the use on Chinese sharebikes! The bell is integrated into a grip-shift type device on the handlebar and rings regardless of which way you turn it - so you can ring it literally constantly by twisting your thumb and finger back and forth. Everybody does this, all the time.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 11:23 AM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


What you're describing sounds much more like the way that people in China use pneumatic drills.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 11:33 AM on October 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


And we have a helmet law in our state, which is another problem.

Which you can probably pretty safely ignore as far as legal consequences, not physical. Getting traffic citations on a bicycle is extremely rare in the first place.

I don't see anyone using helmets with the bike shares in Seattle. I mainly ride without a helmet for reasons that might not be appropriate to argue here, but I've been doing it for most of my life, even when I was younger and more aggressive and less skilled, and I'm fine.

I'm mainly bringing this up because I've ridden sans-helmet all over WA state from the urban environment to the rural. I've done long haul bike tour riding with my helmet strapped to the racks because I'm going like 5 mph and it's frickin' hot. I've been a bike courier in Seattle. I've attended protest marches and rallies swarming with Seattle PD with my bike without a helmet. I've lived and worked on my bike.

Not once has any LEO said a single thing about my lack of helmet, not even a friendly "Where's your helmet?"

Assuming you're not a local public drunk. car prowler, tweaker, or criddler you'd basically have to be going out of your way by running lights or intentionally smashing up cars with a U-lock like some kind of bike hooligan to get almost any cop in WA state to give enough of a shit about you to pull you over and issue a citation for no helmet, and it would probably just be a nuisance charge because the officer felt like turning the screw in addition to the other citations.

I do recommend helmets. And you should own and wear one. I do own and wear one when I know I'm going to be riding aggressively, and I wore one 99% of the time when I was riding as a courier in Seattle, mainly because I had a rear view mirror on it.
posted by loquacious at 11:38 AM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


The bell is integrated into a grip-shift type device on the handlebar and rings regardless of which way you turn it - so you can ring it literally constantly by twisting your thumb and finger back and forth. Everybody does this, all the time.

And once again I am impressed by the ingenuity, efficiency and good cheer of the Chinese people! Huzzah!

Alas, I'm now so cheered I need to go ring my bike bell for like five minutes. I can't afford to lose any more points from my bicycle license until the end of the year. Just yesterday I let some teenaged kid on an Orbis carbon race bike cat 6 me on a climb.
posted by loquacious at 11:44 AM on October 8, 2017


Sorry that bicycling is happening to everyone's cities in the wrong way. Docked bike share hasn't become prevalent enough in most US cities for long enough, so the malaise of docked systems is also not widespread. Bicycling in the US isn't very popular in the first place though.

To many, I'm sure this seems like a solution in search of a problem because, driving past the bicycle docking stations, they seem so nice and orderly compared to the mess of non-docked systems, but looking pretty for people driving past in cars does zero for actual ridership.

Docking stations are borne from the real tragedy of the commons - bike thieves. That multiple parties have decided that the way around that is to throw bicycles at the problem is great.

Docked bike systems have been around for decades. It's time to move past them.
posted by fragmede at 12:05 PM on October 8, 2017 [7 favorites]


If there are a lot of bikes, that's great, that's a lot of cyclists. If there aren't enough racks, that sucks, but the answer is to increase the number of racks, not decrease the number of bikes.

Moreover, a rental bike is less likely to sit idle in the rack for 8 hours than a commuter's personal bike.
posted by pwnguin at 12:13 PM on October 8, 2017 [6 favorites]


If you think dockless bikes are an issue for disabled people trying to get freely around in a city via public transport, I've got some horrible news for you about cars.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:28 PM on October 8, 2017 [11 favorites]


Can anyone answer my question seriously?

Seriously. if you park your vehicle obstructing the sidewalk, where i live, Parking services will try to give you a ticket. luckily, they don't make boots for bicycles yet.

To use on-street parking, park your bike perpendicular to the flow of traffic (the most efficient use of the space) on the street in the vehicle parking area. bikes are considered 'vehicles' in most municipalities in the U.S.

It's nice to have dedicated bike parking, and even rain-sheltered bike parking. we've all gotten used to informal parking on street signage and guidewires, and god bless the ADA for making handrails more ubiquitous. Bikes can park in on-street parking, just as bikes can use the streets for travel.

ask your favorite local business about setting up a bike rack by their storefront, that often helps.
posted by eustatic at 1:51 PM on October 8, 2017


So these are essentially abandoned property then? Sweet! Encourage homeless people to recycle them. Everybody wins except the assholes, and how often do you see that happen these days?
posted by Naberius at 1:57 PM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Obviously the solution to bike-helmet lice is to shave your head. You also save money on shampoo and the time you used to spend drying and coiffing can be spent on MetaFilter. There is literally no downside I SAID NO DOWNSIDE
posted by um at 1:58 PM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


These bikes were all over downtown Dallas when I was there a few weeks ago. I needed to be at a location about 2 miles away, so I downloaded an app, signed up, found a bike and rode it there. As others have noted above, the seat on this particular bikeshare model was not adjustable, and as a moderately tall man, pedaling was murder for me with the low seat. Would not repeat.
posted by tippiedog at 2:24 PM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


If I find one of these dockless bikes on a municipal bike rack, and it is not secured, I'm moving it.

We pay for those racks so that actual residents can park their bikes, not to subsidize your shitty business model.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2017


Who do you think are riding the bikes if not "actual residents"? Executives of the bike-share company?
posted by Lexica at 2:31 PM on October 8, 2017 [7 favorites]


Mobike & co. seem like an excellent mechanism for turning venture capital funds into free bikes for unscrupulous persons.

I still love that DC got ours just days after Baltimore had to end their bikeshare program due to theft and vandalism of their fleet.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:54 PM on October 8, 2017


Baltimore didn't end their program. They merely paused it. It will re-open October 15th. I'm not sure where people got the idea that Baltimore's bikeshare program is ending, because every article I've read about it said it was just a temporary closure to get in front of the theft/vandalism, not a permanent closure.

I love bike share. I love DC's bike share. I love Boston's bike share. I love New York's bike share. The pay $8/$10/$15 and get unlimited 30 minute rides a day is awesome. I don't like San Diego's or Philadelphia because they don't have the one day unlimited pass, though Philadelphia is only $15 a month for unlimited. Unfortunately they need to send you the fob in the mail and you can't do it with a CC. I haven't tried one of the mobile bike share but it seems like a great idea to me, and I look forward to using it in the future.
posted by GregorWill at 3:02 PM on October 8, 2017


the bikes themselves largely suck, bad. I love the programs nonetheless.
posted by ergomatic at 3:26 PM on October 8, 2017


Thread drift; anyone here have experience with the docked Ford GoBikes in the SF Bay Area? Should I post an Ask?
posted by X4ster at 3:55 PM on October 8, 2017


Dockless bike sharing makes absolutely no sense if there's no dedicated bike parking, period. I think Citibike here in New York City does it right: plenty of high visibility docks; a reliable app to show you if there are bikes available; and a dedicated service to transport bikes to and from docks depending on where they're most needed at any given time. Really, this is a solved problem, and dockless bikes are a step backwards, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by monospace at 4:22 PM on October 8, 2017


Who do you think are riding the bikes if not "actual residents"? Executives of the bike-share company?


So far, in Toronto, I haven't seen anyone riding them. But if you charge a fee for your service, you can damn well set up your own dedicated bike storage.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:55 PM on October 8, 2017


There's no incentive to treat the bikes properly, while there is incentive to treat them disposably. It's just human nature; if you see one, two, a dozen other people trashing these bikes, you absolve yourself of any guilt of doing so yourself.
posted by zardoz at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


If there wasn't a bike rack I'd just lean it up against a building or something because the whole conceit is that you don't need to leave it somewhere specific. There are certainly a lot of assholes but I'm guessing a certain percentage of bike users are confused or just think you're supposed to just leave them anywhere.
posted by AFABulous at 5:28 PM on October 8, 2017


I was back in London for a month recently and saw the yellow Ofo bikes so I gave them a try.

For me, more used to having my own bike here, it worked very well. I like being able to use a bike in a more flexible way - being able to take the tube if it's raining or dark, cycling if conditions are better. The seat went up without problems, and I am tall. Being able to go directly to my destination without finding a docking station was a big plus - Hackney is not completely covered by the docking scheme.

They are still new here, and several people asked me about them while I was riding, they seem to be generally well received. I only saw one badly parked one. The app has loads of marked suggested parking spots if you get a bit stuck. Mobike's scheme of points for reporting problematic ones seems like a good idea - Ofo only had a 'needs repair' option as I remember.

None of these schemes provide helmets so maybe that's a US thing? Easy enough to carry your own though.

There seemed to be about the right amount around the place, I rarely had to walk more than five minutes to find one.

I totally see the potential for them to become street clutter but it didn't seem to me to be happening- at present, anyway. I think it's also potentially an interesting development for areas that don't have the funds, space or usage that the docked schemes need.

Its problems seem like solvable ones to me. I hope so, anyway.
posted by tardigrade at 6:23 PM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


um: "Obviously the solution to bike-helmet lice is to shave your head. You also save money on shampoo and the time you used to spend drying and coiffing can be spent on MetaFilter. There is literally no downside I SAID NO DOWNSIDE"

A full Kojak isn't required; maintaining a #1 buzz daily will both trim off nits before they hatch and give adults no place to hide. Plus it'll keep your toque in place in windy conditions.
posted by Mitheral at 7:46 PM on October 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


"If there is no bike rack where you're going, where exactly are you supposed to put them besides on the sidewalk?"

One obvious solution would be to encourage/incentivize large employers/shopping centers/parking garages to paint a parking space green and have it be parking for dropbikes. Put it next to the handicapped spots like they do with the dedicated electric car spots. Since drop bikes don't need a rack, you could park a bunch of them in a small parking spot. (Alternatively, install a small rack and allow the space to be half for bikes people need to lock up, and half for drop bikes.) It wouldn't be difficult to tell parking garages that they must provide a dropbike space in their garages to operate in the city, or to put in the code that any location with more than 20 parking spots must have a bike rack and a location for dropbikes that don't impede pedestrian and wheelchair access.

I might require dropbike operators to pay a small "access fee" to the city to facilitate the creation of bike parking incentives for private businesses, but you'd have to do a financial breakdown first to see what the costs are like and who's bearing them. Just kinda spitballing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:46 PM on October 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


In Melbourne, the cops use lack of helmet / bell etc. to pull over cyclists for various reasons, often to enforce a general kind of street discipline kind of thing.

Once when I was working as a courier, another bike courier did a runner from the cops after they tried to pull him over for running a red light.

For the next week, they were pulling over every courier whose bike was not 100% street legal and telling that it would only stop when the runner handed himself in.

Or so I hear.
posted by chmmr at 11:12 PM on October 8, 2017


ask your favorite local business about setting up a bike rack by their storefront, that often helps.

Alternatively, find a better favorite local business and tell your old one why you won't be going back. Had to do that with a coffeeshop this year. Their shitty landlord who won't put in a rack is not my problem.

It wouldn't be difficult to tell parking garages that they must provide a dropbike space in their garages to operate in the city, or to put in the code that any location with more than 20 parking spots must have a bike rack and a location for dropbikes that don't impede pedestrian and wheelchair access.

Bike parking ordinances are a wonderful thing, but they aren't an easy tool to use for existing buildings that were permitted under the earlier code. Which sucks. The best option my metro area has to encourage bike parking installation is city-funded bike parking, but availability is limited and there's no downside to failing to install racks (aside from unhappy potential customers/employees/tenants, but these are landlords we're talking about, so making the world worse is SOP.)
posted by asperity at 11:14 PM on October 8, 2017


places where it is safer to ride attract more cyclists.

I find it hard to believe that anyone who has lived in an urbanized area for more than a few months would recognize from their own experience which is likely the case. Around here, drivers are far more courteous to other road users anywhere there usually are other road users, even when the physical characteristics of the road are otherwise identical.

There's been some controversy over dockless bike shares in Miami. One of the companies started up in Key Biscayne, yet the bikes end up far away in Miami (ok, I get how that could happen) and Miami Beach (how...? that takes dedication most bike owners lack!). Key Biscayne has been reasonably happy with the program as implemented, though.

I think the real issue here is that these schemes expose the extreme underprovision of bicycle parking in most cities. The best solution is to build sufficient bicycle parking, which should exist anyway. Absent that, a worse alternative would be to force dockless bikeshare operators to fund said bicycle parking. This is one (rare) instance where I feel like we are in the wrong more than the companies involved.
posted by wierdo at 2:35 AM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also, in a more general sense, I'm in favor of dockless for the same reason I prefer(red, they left Miami) car2go's model to ZipCar's. Only ZipCar is more useful to me than fucking Citibike because they have more convenient locations(!), most of which are leased on-street parking anyway.

Docked systems require a density that most cities can't support. Here, Citibike is almost 100% used by tourists because docks are only useful to them, there are none where people live. And we wonder why traffic only ever gets worse...
posted by wierdo at 2:57 AM on October 9, 2017


The type of dockless bikes that use integrated locks (and therefore require locking to a normal bike rack) seem like the most practical solution here. Total flexibility, don't block sidewalks, and they take advantage of/encourage the expansion of the existing bike rack infrastructure. Jump bikeshare in DC has that.

Personally, I tried to use LimeBike last week in DC and found that the first two I walked to were seemingly hidden inside people's apartment buildings. Why must people ruin such an otherwise great thing?
posted by mosst at 7:05 AM on October 9, 2017


Sorry, I meant integrated u-locks (or similar). Obviously they all have integrated locks.
posted by mosst at 7:15 AM on October 9, 2017


Toronto Bike Share is in no danger of losing my membership. There just aren't enough bikes around, and for the most part being able to drop off a bike wherever you want isn't super necessary now that docks are more plentiful around the city.

The closest Toronto Bike Share locations to me are 4 kilometres away, and I'm not even out in Fordlandia or anything. Just sayin'
posted by rodlymight at 9:14 AM on October 9, 2017


Also, the city is not any more bike-friendly or bike-safe, which needs to improve alongside availability of we are to increase bike access.

To my mind, that's the best potential upside of bike share. Bike infrastructure is a classic chicken-egg problem: convincing a city that, if they build it, cyclists will come, is very difficult. If bike share gives us (I'm in Seattle) a big surge in the number of people on bikes, then those people will demand better infrastructure. Maybe they'll demand it through their employers (Amazon), who actually have political clout.

Even if, in the end, dockless bike share is a pathetic failure, I'm hoping it'll a) get more people biking, even if they end up doing it on their own bikes, and b) give us a strong bubble of political will for bike infrastructure.
posted by gurple at 9:44 AM on October 9, 2017


With all the problems, why is every city switching to the dockless model?
posted by miyabo at 10:53 AM on October 9, 2017


Baltimore didn't end their program. They merely paused it.

Ok, paused. They had to shut it down due to theft and vandalism. I anticipate even more theft and vandalism of dockless bikes, not least because people keep leaving them in the middle of the fucking sidewalk.

As a bike commuter I'm half in favor of bikeshare and half resentful of yet another bullshit "disruption" into a largely unregulated market. It's great for critical mass and pedestrian/vehicle awareness, but it seems to go in tandem with really stupid and unsafe cycling, and none of the extant traffic laws are being enforced. My city is already full of inattentive tourists walking out into traffic; now they're also riding three abreast up one-way streets without helmets.

lawns, getting off my
posted by aspersioncast at 10:56 AM on October 9, 2017


On "stupid and unsafe cycling" (which, from my anecdotal perspective, happens about as often with non-bikeshare folks as with bikeshare folks), I like this article: Bicyclists learn from bicyclists to break traffic laws. But perhaps the law should learn from them, researcher says.
posted by mosst at 11:22 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


With all the problems, why is every city switching to the dockless model?

Cities aren't doing the switching, with few exceptions there is no coordination between the dockless bike share operators and their host city. What's happening is that the bike share operators are leaving their bikes on the sidewalks for users to find without concerns for any local permitting or coordination process.
posted by peeedro at 11:33 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]


My city is already full of inattentive tourists walking out into traffic; now they're also riding three abreast up one-way streets without helmets.

Sounds awesome!
posted by grahamparks at 1:15 PM on October 9, 2017


Sounds awesome!

It is, mostly. DC is actually a pretty good city to cycle in, and has only gotten better overall as the number of cyclists increases.

It's probably also true that non-bikeshare cyclists are just as bad about doing stupid unsafe things; it's just easier to spot them when they're on a bikeshare bike. Which might actually be another point in favor of the shares.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:25 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


My city is already full of inattentive tourists walking out into traffic; now they're also riding three abreast up one-way streets without helmets.

OH NO PEOPLE USING THE STREETS THIS IS MADNESS
posted by entropicamericana at 3:18 PM on October 9, 2017 [6 favorites]


My city is already full of inattentive tourists walking out into traffic; now they're also riding three abreast up one-way streets without helmets.

OH NO PEOPLE USING THE STREETS THIS IS MADNESS


A lot of drivers become really aggressive if they're unable to pass a cyclist, so, yes, this actually is madness.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:33 PM on October 9, 2017




A lot of drivers become really aggressive if they're unable to pass a cyclist, so, yes, this actually is madness.

a lot of drivers don't belong behind the wheel
posted by entropicamericana at 4:29 AM on October 10, 2017 [6 favorites]


A lot of drivers become really aggressive if they're unable to pass a cyclist, so, yes, this actually is madness.

If the law where you are is like it is here, and a cyclist has the legal right to take the full lane when needed for safety, it's actually better to have two or three riding side by side. Motorists are far more likely, in my experience, to try to force their way past a single rider who's taking the lane than they are to threaten multiple riders at once.

It's funny how many motorists seem to think a speed limit sign that says "30" means "30 is the proper speed you should be moving at and anything that's slowing you down is a problem" rather than the actual meaning of "you must keep your speed at or below 30 while driving safely according to the conditions present". Oh wait, it's not funny at all, it's entitled, arrogant, and dangerous.
posted by Lexica at 9:41 AM on October 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


This is true in DC as well, and drivers are also supposed to give cyclists a three foot berth. In practice, I'd rather be alive than legally correct, so I'm still pretty cautious. The right-of-way hierarchy should be something like pedestrians > bikes > cars, but in practice a dumbass

it's actually better to have two or three riding side by side
Not up a one-way street, without helmets, which was my specific gripe.

OH NO PEOPLE USING THE STREETS THIS IS MADNESS
Come on now, that's clearly mischaracterizing the argument. They're using the streets in dumb and dangerous ways without proper care for their surroundings. I'd be perfectly happy for cars not to be allowed inside the beltway, but we don't actually have the public transportation infrastructure to allow for that. Since cars, bikes, and pedestrians have to share infrastructure, stepping out into the street without looking is dumb and dangerous. So is biking up a one way without a helmet.

a lot of drivers don't belong behind the wheel
Yup.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:50 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


ah yes the american obsession with helmets
posted by entropicamericana at 3:24 PM on October 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


ah yes the american obsession with helmets

Hey, I've invested a lot of time and money in my brain

I went for a run along the Burke Gilman trail here in Seattle yesterday, and counted probably 12-15 bikes strewn about in various spots, some orange, some yellow, and some green (so, multiple services). Most of them were off the trail, at least, but they were scattered in city-maintained medians and in Gasworks Park. One had a broken chain trailing behind it, which I suppose speaks to the quality of manufacture. These services could be useful, but it does appear that they are externalizing costs on to the communities in which they operate.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:30 PM on October 12, 2017


ah yes the american obsession with helmets

Well maybe if we had functional national health care I'd feel differently. I have been hit by cars while cycling three different times. In each case the driver was clearly in the wrong. I rode away from two and limped away from one with a splitting headache. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet that time I'd quite possibly have died.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:13 AM on October 13, 2017


Saving your life is not even part of the bicycle helmet design brief. They're designed to prevent cosmetic injuries in low speed mishaps and not much else. The amount of kinetic energy they absorb is negligible. The thing that saved your life was your skull.
posted by grahamparks at 11:53 AM on October 13, 2017


Explain that to the big cut in my old helmet.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:53 AM on October 14, 2017


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