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Dallas's rush into bikeshare turns controversial

Dallas suddenly has the largest bikeshare network in the United States, but its growth has triggered a backlash in a ...

Posted: Feb 5, 2018 9:03 PM
Updated: Feb 5, 2018 9:03 PM

Dallas suddenly has the largest bikeshare network in the United States, but its growth has triggered a backlash in a city with little history of bicycling.

With more than 20,000 bicycles, Dallas's fleet dwarfs those of traditional bike hotspots, such as Portland, Oregon, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, Washington, D.C. and New York.

Dockless bicycles, which don't have to be returned to a station or locked to a bike rack, began appearing on streets in August. The dockless companies won over the local government with a promise to operate without any cost to taxpayers. The number of bikes continued to grow in the fall -- most notably in November, when ofo, a Chinese bikeshare company, also launched in the city.

Dockless bicycles, which don't have to be returned to a station or locked to a bike rack, began appearing in Dallas over the summer. The dockless companies won over the local government with a promise to operate without any cost to taxpayers.

But now Dallas is planning regulations that will restrict the number of bicycles, and where they can be parked. It's also threatened to start confiscating neglected bikes. Since September, the city has received 800 complaints about the bicycles.

"Some of the bikes are left for days, weeks, or months, in some cases without being moved," Jared White, who manages alternative transportation in the Dallas Department of Transportation, told CNN Tech.

Earlier this year, pranksters sawed one bike in half, and mounted it to a telephone pole. Another bicycle was set on fire. Some have been thrown in lakes and rivers. "Lime Bikes: Dallas version of road kill," one business posted on its sign. One neighborhood banned the bikes altogether.

"It's making people a little bit hostile," said Fran Badgett, owner of Transit Bicycle Company in Dallas. "From my front door you can see about 200 bikes. Not a single one is parked in a way I'd call respectful or helpful."

Many of the bicycles are lying flat on their side. Either riders aren't parking responsibly, or the wind or people are tipping them over. Even bicycle supporters are dismayed at how the technology has rolled out.

"I love bikes and love to see this type of thing, but it was way too much too fast," said Woody Smith, owner of the Dallas' Richardson Bike Mart. "They're littering the community with those things."

Related: It's a make-or-break moment for U.S. bikeshares

Critics of dockless bikeshare point to Dallas as proof that bicycles must be locked to something, such as a bike rack, pole or dock, to encourage good behavior.

"This feels like more of an invasion of a low-quality bike that people don't respect versus a high-quality transit that people can rely on and respect," said Timothy Ericson, CEO of Zagster, a bikeshare company whose bikes must be locked to fixed objects when not in use.

To better tend to its 10,000 bicycles, LimeBike hopes to double its 50 person staff in the city by spring, according to Anthony Fleo, who leads its Dallas operation. It's also released videos to educate a city of bike newbies about how to properly park the bikes.

LimeBike and ofo, the two largest bikeshare operators in Dallas, describe vandalism as a minor problem. LimeBike reports that fewer than 1% of bikes have been impacted. Ofo said vandalism in Dallas is comparable to mature markets in the 21 countries it operates in.

Both companies also report that ridership is growing. LimeBike said it set ridership records three weekends in a row. It reached a two-day total of more than 10,000 rides last weekend.

According to Chris Nakutis Taylor, who leads ofo's North America operations, Dallas isn't even close to the number of bicycles that make sense for a city of its size and density. Ofo is opposed to caps on the number of bikes in Dallas.

"For the last 10 years, people have made the case that people should ride bikes more," Nakutis Taylor said. "Imagine where Uber and Lyft and people's ability to move around their city would be if in 2013 cities said there can only be 1,000 rideshaing cars on the street."

Ridesharing services have become popular with customers, but in some places their arrival has been pointed to as increasing traffic congestion.

Related: Ebikes emerge as a hot trend in the United States

Dallas's problem appears to stem in part from any sort of bikeshare regulations. Cities such as Seattle, Washington and San Francisco have required the companies to gradually deploy their bicycles so as not to overwhelm the cities.

"Our idea was let's take a market approach. Let's let it happen," said White, the Dallas government official. "Even though it's been a little messy, it was a good way to do it. We really get to see who all the players are, and what the real issues are."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751242

Reported Deaths: 13795
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
St. Joseph36990565
Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
Hendricks17682317
Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
LaPorte12419221
Monroe12207176
Delaware10966198
Howard10321225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8576146
Bartholomew8169157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7811180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6966103
Morgan6761141
Dubois6218118
Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
Dearborn589878
Noble581488
Jackson509076
Shelby501496
Lawrence4742122
Gibson444894
Clinton442355
Harrison441875
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438090
Whitley406543
Huntington402681
Steuben400159
Miami395269
Jasper388054
Knox375991
Putnam372960
Wabash361983
Ripley347170
Adams345555
Jefferson335886
White331953
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246036
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220948
Sullivan214643
Owen211858
Fulton202942
Jay200932
Carroll193620
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166246
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113936
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101714
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108736

Reported Deaths: 20166
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1287201467
Cuyahoga1157922211
Hamilton813971250
Montgomery525481043
Summit484271001
Lucas43353820
Butler39013606
Stark33332929
Lorain25672505
Warren24591303
Mahoning22370603
Lake21207388
Clermont20117253
Delaware18852136
Licking16662222
Fairfield16574204
Trumbull16548482
Medina15610271
Greene15281248
Clark14237306
Wood13292200
Portage13251215
Allen11913239
Richland11605211
Miami10849225
Wayne9141223
Columbiana9032230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8663122
Tuscarawas8649250
Marion8642138
Erie8056165
Ashtabula7160179
Hancock6998132
Ross6944161
Geauga6838151
Scioto6534106
Belmont6157174
Union584549
Lawrence5731102
Jefferson5678158
Huron5546122
Sandusky5442126
Darke5420129
Seneca5348128
Washington5319109
Athens523960
Auglaize502187
Mercer487385
Shelby476895
Knox4571112
Madison444266
Ashland435797
Putnam4336103
Defiance432399
Fulton432074
Crawford4037110
Brown402461
Logan387677
Preble3855105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373681
Highland359665
Williams348278
Champaign344759
Guernsey324953
Jackson318254
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin275265
Henry273467
Holmes2701101
Coshocton269060
Van Wert247264
Adams243256
Pike242835
Gallia240650
Wyandot234556
Hocking220563
Carroll197348
Paulding176542
Meigs148440
Monroe136344
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85517
Unassigned03
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