: Salvation or threat?
Dockless bike share is often perceived in contradictory terms, either as salvation or as a threat. There are several reasons for it to be viewed as salvation. This service is most often operated without any fi nancial contribution from the city, thus the city gets the bike-sharing system „for free“. There are no political risks associated with dockless
bike-sharing, in contrast to docking station systems, where political representatives can be held accountable for the functionality of the system and the money spent. Last but not least, dockless bike-sharing brings hope of increasing the share of cycling in the modal split and relieving the overloaded motor traffi c and the city’s air.
Dockless bike share is also perceived as a threat, for the public space, pedestrians as well as the bike share users themselves. The tactics of some dockless bike-sharing operators are to fl ood the city with bicycles. Within a few days, an operator (typically
a Chinese one) can drop several thousand to tens of thousands of bicycles on city streets in order to reach a dominant position among users. There are several problems with this kind of „landing“. These bike-sharing bikes are viewed as parasiting on public
space and street furniture. They either occupy the residents’ space by the racks or are parked in inappropriate places. Sometimes they are said to block passage to pedestrians on the pavement. But in all honesty, it is more often than not a reaction to conservative feelings being hurt because compared to cars parked on pavements
and in public areas, it is a rather insignifi cant off ence.
The most serious problem is a higher vandalism rate and ensuring of suffi cient technical quality and safety of the bikes on the streets. In China towns, up to 19% of dockless bike share bicycles were damaged in 2017; these bikes become street junk. The high degree of damage to the bikes is due to the market tactics of the largest operators, consisting in massive supply of bikes and their replenishing. Unfortunately, technical service guaranteeing that only bikes in a perfect technical condition are part of the system is not always part of the tactics. In the worst case, damaged bikes
can become a safety hazard for bike share users.
: City’s proactive approach
Dockless bike-sharing systems are a new phenomenon for most cities, and they may not know how to deal with them. The more fortunate cities are fi rst contacted by an entity interested in operating the system in the city; the less fortunate cities wake up one day into a new bike share reality without any advance notice. Fortunately, we can be inspired by two foreign cities that have decided to take advantage of the new opportunity of dockless bike share for the benefi t of the city and its inhabitants to the full. These cities that set the rules for operating dockless bike-sharing systems to ensure the highest quality of this service are Seattle and London.
Since June 2017, Seattle has been issuing permits to operate bike share in the city. A bike share operator that applies for the permit undertakes to comply with the rules defi ned by the city in several areas. The bikes in operation must meet regulatory requirements and the operator must provide a functional way for the user to inform about the need for a service intervention. The bikes must be parked in such a way that they do not hinder pedestrians and do not block narrow passages; the operator must relocate improperly parked bikes upon notice. The operator must provide continuous
customer support on the phone. Operators start with 500 bikes in the fi rst month, and if they run the system in accordance with the rules, the fl eet can grow to 1,000 bikes during the second month and to 2,000 bikes during the third month. In the following
months, the operator can operate even more than 2,000 bikes.
Seattle’s most important innovation, however, concerns sharing of bike share data. Under the bike share permit, operators pledge to the city to provide data from the system – current bike position, trip records (start, destination, duration and length of
the journey). This is a key step forward. Seattle has data from all currently operated systems and can provide live bike position data as open data to the public. At the same time, it gains data on the movement of people and can better plan mobility in the
city. All data is anonymized and the privacy of the users of the system is guaranteed.
London rules diff er only in some respects. Bike share operators are also required to ensure proper technical condition of the bikes and trouble-free parking. In addition, operators are required to redistribute the bikes when clustering of bikes occurs at various locations. Operators also need to provide 24/7 customer supporton the phone, but also give, via their application, advice on how to ride a bike properly (safe riding in city traffi c and compliance with rules). In London too, operators are obliged to provide data on the trips made for better transport planning in the city.
The goal of the bike share policy in Seattle and London is to provide quality service and seamless operation of dockless bike-sharing systems in the city. This is achieved primarily through the requirements for the technical condition of the bike and their
compliance with the legislation, the commitment to combat inappropriate bicycle parking and the timely intervention to redress any reported improper parking of a bike, to provide customer support and to share data on the current position of the bikes
and the trips made. However, the question is whether Central European cities have similar possibilities to regulate bike share schemes on their territory and whether they can issue permits for its operation. If, for example, the city does not have the capacity
to regulate the matter by means of an ordinance, it can consider positive incentives in the form of paying fi nancial compensation to operators who meet the conditions of operating a dockless bike share scheme defi ned by the city.