Boise City Council Considers 'Sideboards' for Possible Outbreak of Dockless Bike-shares 

click to enlarge A Boise GreenBike hub in downtown Boise. Several "dockless" bike-share programs have expressed interest in doing business in the City of Trees.

Harrison Berry

A Boise GreenBike hub in downtown Boise. Several "dockless" bike-share programs have expressed interest in doing business in the City of Trees.

One dockless bike-share program considering entering the City of Boise would like to deploy a mix of 300 bikes and e-bikes, and an additional 900 e-scooters. Another company would like to deploy one bike for every 100 citizens—approximately 2,200 bikes in all.

"Those numbers illustrate for you that it makes sense for us to put some sideboards around that," Daren Fluke, comprehensive planning manager for the City of Boise, told the Boise City Council during a work session on June 19.

When they heard of the possible bike influx, council members couldn't suppress their amazement. "We're looking at a company that wants to increase our saturation by 20 [times]? That's quite a bit," Council Member Holly Woodings said.

Dockless bike-shares are a relatively new addition to the ranks of bike-share programs. Unlike "docked" bike-shares, users of dockless share don't have to return rented bikes to hubs, and can instead leave them wherever is convenient.

As dockless bike-shares like LimeBike and ofo eye the City of Trees, the City of Trees is eyeing them right back as leaders and planners consider avenues of corralling a technology that has left some cities with huge messes on their hands.

In Dallas, thousands of bikes now litter the streets and sidewalks after dockless bike-shares deployed fleets of their bikes in the Texas city, prompting city leaders to demand the companies take action—or else. Seattle, which Boise planners cited during the work session meeting, has also had significant problems keeping the bikes out of the right-of-way.

The city of Denver has asked Lime—the parent company of LimeBike—to remove its scooters as it implements an ordinance to govern them, and earlier this month, The Guardian reported that Lime's e-scooters deployed in Oakland, California, have been equipped with speakers that blare "Unlock me or I'll call the police" when someone tampers with them.

In a little more than a year, LimeBike, which spoke before the Boise City Council in May, has launched fleets totaling 35,000 bikes in cities across the U.S. and around the world with $132 million in venture capital. Such companies often launch programs with little to no city funding, which they tout as a perk. By contrast, Boise GreenBike, a "docked" bike-share that currently operates in and around downtown Boise, has received approximately $220,000 in city funds over the years.

"Have any cities just said 'no?' No dockless bikes at all?" asked Mayor Dave Bieter.

Fluke told Bieter that no cities he knows of have taken that step, but the mayor's question indicated that the city, though eager to improve and expand its bicycle infrastructure as a quality-of-life measure, is wary of giving carte blanche to out-of-town bike-shares.

At the work session meeting, Fluke offered council members a number of potential models for ordinances that could steer dockless bike-shares, including putting caps on the numbers of bikes, e-bikes and scooters deployed, and deciding whether the city should make itself "open to all comers"—Fluke's recommendation—or form an exclusive relationship with a bike-share. The city may also regulate the parking of the bikes, for example by designating special bike parking areas and establishing a parking enforcement fund; as well as establish a one-year pilot program or offer companies short-term licenses.

Fluke told the council he will have a proposed licensing template prepared by its meeting on Tuesday, June 26. There will also be a full public hearing for a package of ordinances on Tuesday, July 24.

"This is not your final bite at this apple," Fluke said.

Correction: Boise GreenBike has received nearly $220,000 in funds from the City of Boise since 2015. A previous version of this story erroneously indicated Boise GreenBike received $250,000 in city funds prior to its launch.
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