The Dockless Debate 

"[Seattle] is starting to look like the backyard of ill-behaved 7-year-olds who refuse to pick up after themselves."

click to enlarge FRANK C. MILLER CC4.0
  • Frank C. Miller CC4.0

The idea of "dockless bike-sharing" first came on most Boiseans' radars in May when a representative for California-based LimeBike stood before the Boise City Council on May 15 to sing the praises of his company, which allows users to rent bikes but then lock and walk away from them in public areas, absent any docking station.

The presentation gathered a fair amount of attention and some skepticism, particularly from the man who oversees Boise's wildly popular GreenBike bike-share program, Dave Fotsch. As opposed to LimeBike's "park anywhere" model, GreenBike keeps its unused bikes in docking stations strategically scattered throughout downtown Boise.

"This is certainly going to present significant challenges to us if they're allowed to operate in this market," Fotsch told Boise Weekly. "[LimeBike] is still an unproven model. How long can they keep bleeding money? They're not making any money. Trust me on this, I know. I run a bike-share system."

Boise officials invited a LimeBike representative back to answer more questions—LimeBike was on the Boise City Council workshop agenda on June 19—but local leaders may also want to chat with pedestrian advocates in other cities where dockless bike-shares are operating.

"[Seattle] is starting to look like the backyard of ill-behaved 7-year-olds who refuse to pick up after themselves," reads one complaint filed with that city last September.

In addition, Wired.com's Mark Harris reported just last week, "What looked on the surface like an easy win ended up revealing the limits of a startup-led revolution. As Seattle residents discovered, just because the city could get bikes on the streets with little investment, didn't mean it should."

For the record, LimeBike doesn't need approval from the city to operate in Boise, only a business license from the Idaho Secretary of State's office. That said, Boise officials are in a position to consider rules and ordinances to oversee the process.

Boise Weekly has also learned that still another dockless bike-share company, China-based ofo, is eyeing Boise as a possible market.

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