On April 4, the City of Austin kicked off plans to start its first dockless bike sharing program. The system would provide a cheap, super convenient, and environmentally conscious way to get around the city by allowing users to simply pick up a bike and leave it anywhere using remote GPS technology.
The forum followed the city’s approval in February of a 12-month pilot phase which would blend dockless bikes with existing station-based bike systems like Austin B-Cycle. This will allow a handful of city-approved companies to operate a limited number of dockless bikes on Austin streets.
After seeing its success in Smart Cities like San Francisco and Dallas, community members, city officials, and bike-sharing companies are trying to turn this ambitious program into a reality here in the Capital City.
The forum began with a pitch session during which 10 different bike-sharing companies discussed ideas on how to implement the program into the city. Among these was LimeBike, a California-based company which currently serves over 50 communities both domestically and internationally — including Dallas and Waco.
While many are excited for this new technology-based transportation option, as the Austin Monitor points out, bike sharing programs both across the country and internationally have come with their fair share of challenges.
In Dallas, bike-sharing remains popular, but dockless bikes have become a problem for the city, with people leaving them in bushes, waterways, or on busy sidewalks. The issue has escalated to the point where Dallas city officials are considering taking action to better manage and regulate the bikes. Some private companies, like Mobike, have stepped in by docking a user's score if they don't park a bike responsibly.
However, many remain hopeful that the program could be successful in Austin, including Laura Dierenfield, a division manager at the Austin Transportation Department.
"It's good that we are not the pioneer in that sense, and it also offers us a way to see how we should be structuring these programs," she said in an interview with KXAN.
Four more open format public listening sessions will be held this month, giving Austinites the opportunity to ask questions and learn more. The sessions are scheduled for April 10 from 6-7 pm at Yarborough Library; April 16 from 6-7 pm at Willie Mae Kirk Library; April 20 at noon during Earth Day ATX at Huston-Tillotson University; and April 28 from 2:30-4 pm at Twin Oaks Library.