Dockless Bikes: A Modern Innovation, A Modern Issue

Sunny San Diego is a cyclists paradise. With temperate weather all year long and a choice of gorgeous coastal scenery, twisty mountain roads, or beach front scenery, there are few places on earth that are nicer to ride a bike. As an environmentally conscious community, and a state with high gas prices, many locals choose bikes and scooters to get around the city, which has led to a recent crop of bike sharing programs springing up all over the city’s neighborhoods.

Unlike older bike programs where bikes were rented from stations around the city and then returned to a station later, these programs are dock-less. They use an app to keep track of bike locations and allow users to find, rent, and ride a bike all from their phone. In theory, the convenience and cost saving benefits of these programs would lead to resounding cheers from locals. But things are not as rosy as they seem. After several dock-less bike companies launched in February, the city was already planning a crackdown by June.

Sarah Jane Miller, a San Diego resident for over 30 years, is an active community member and passionate cyclist but her response to the recent wave of bike programs is not quite as positive as one would expect.

“I love that the city is encouraging more bicycle use and creating lanes for this purpose. However with the dock-less bikes that have been dropped off around the city, the behavior of people using them is disrespectful and creating a lot of tension amongst citizens,” Miller said. “The bicycles are being left hazardously in the street, on sidewalks blocking pedestrians, and even being left in canyons making them difficult to retrieve. More and more people are unfortunately finding them a nuisance and neighborhoods are trying to get them outlawed as a result.”

With this being such a new problem for the city, much is to be decided about what to do. The city is considering shutting these types of programs down but also sees the benefits of pedestrian access to bikes. Urban designers might also have a role in creating new pathways, lanes, and stations to better organize the bikes and manage traffic.

“Many people really do want to keep San Diego an active city and more bike-friendly, but the dock-less bicycles are really creating more trouble because of human behavior.” Miller said.

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