Pro Tip for Managing Dockless Bike-Share “Clutter” — Give Them Space on the Street

So close, Seattle! The city is reserving space for dockless bike-share parking on the sidewalk, not the curb lane. Photo: Seattle DOT
So close, Seattle! The city is reserving space for dockless bike-share parking on the sidewalk, not the curb lane. Photo: Seattle DOT

Dockless bike-share fleets — and now dockless scooters — are arriving in American cities by the tens of thousands.

Like anything new on the street, these vehicles have not been introduced without controversy. Much of the pushback relates to the issue of storage: Where do they go when they aren’t being used? So many articles have been written about dockless bike-share “clutter” at this point, it’s already a genre you can parody.

But as bike-share expert Alex Baca has pointed out, there’s a readily available solution to the storage problem: Just reserve some curb space for bike-share parking.

Stefani Cox at the Better Bike Share Blog reports that one U.S. city is already doing this — sort of. Seattle has started reserving sidewalk space — but not street space — for parking dockless bikes.

So far the city has designated five bike-share parking areas in the Ballard neighborhood. Seattle DOT says the 6-by-10-foot zones were selected because they won’t interfere with pedestrian access. All spaces are out of the way of buildings, bus stops, curb ramps, and loading zones.

But the easiest way to avoid interfering with people walking is to put these bike parking areas in the curb lane. Seattle’s not doing that, at least not yet.

Seattle does have on-street bike corrals, and oddly enough, the city even put a dockless bike-share zone on the sidewalk next to a corral.

If cities really want to make dockless bike-share work, they’ll have to get over their aversion to repurposing car parking spaces for other uses.

  • rwy

    In jurisdictions where bikes are considered a vehicle with the same rights as other vehicles, couldn’t you just leave DoBi in a parking space?

  • I think this is a great idea to use a dockless corral like this. Here in San Francisco along the pier shoreline, there are painted areas where pedicabs can park and wait for their next ride and also puts them in a location where it doesn’t block the flow of pedestrians.

  • ZA_SF

    Ahem, lease/rent/permit that public space, do not ‘give’ that space. Use that revenue to continue to build out bicycle infrastructure, from unbranded bike racks to bike lanes, etc.

  • Do Something Nice

    Why not give a parking spot for a homeless cabin? If the owners of bike companies want to pay the market price of a space, fine. Otherwise, don’t hand over assets to them. I feel the same about free parking for automobiles that are for rent or used in other commercial ventures.

    And if you want to get rid of all parking and make cities mostly car free, I support that too. But I do not support mostly lawless companies making a profit by creating chaos. This asking for forgiveness and not first asking for permission nonsense FOR PROFIT needs to stop.

  • crazyvag

    I could’ve supported that view 10 years ago when I ride my bike around town and used public bike racks to lock up my bike. However, time to lock and the constant worry it’ll get stolen switched me to use only shared bike services. As a resident, I want access to huge transportation be equally easy and inexpensive as with my own bike.

    Your proposal makes bike share harder and more expensive, so I disagree with you.

  • Do Something Nice

    So we should turn over public assets to a private, for profit company that will profit from that public asset so you won’t have to pay the actual cost of ‘shared bike services’ ?

    Sorry, but no.

  • I live in an area “invaded”by dockless bike share and scooter companies and each vendor when they drop off the vehicles in a location ensures they aren’t blocking anything. They even take photos of their work to prove to their employee and/or the city to show they weren’t the ones doing anything wrong.
    It’s the users who are returning them incorrectly and sometimes it’s even the local NIMBYs intentionally sabotaging the operations to make it look as if the companies were acting inappropriately.

  • If this is your position you should practice what you preach and insist all private goods are removed from the public right of way. Starting with newspaper stands, advertisements (even on bus stops)

  • Do Something Nice

    Newspaper stands are regulated in most cities. Bus stops serve public transportation that is non-profit.

  • disqus_1pvtRUVrlr

    This will work only to an extent. Users are ultimately going to leave them wherever they end their trip. That is the fundamental nature of DoBi vs. docked systems. Do Something Nice is absolutely correct; public space, when used by for-profit entities needs to be assessed a fee. I work for a city and managing these kinds of issues requires manpower to administer and police. Curbside management will soon be a huge issue with autonomous vehicles roving cities for passengers. How many SB readers would be screaming that Uber, Lyft and others shouldn’t be regulated or have to pay for using curbside space for their vehicles?

  • Jason

    Free curbside car parking is allowing private individuals to benefit from public assets without having to pay the actual cost of using the public asset.

  • Do Something Nice

    But it isn’t a direct commercial endeavor. I’m actually fine banning all cars, but I’m not okay in perpetuating the giving away of assets owned and paid for by the public to companies for their own profit.

    And seriously, these companies have been mostly lawless. They shouldn’t be given a second chance.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    Your idea that we shoudnt have any sort of bike sharing because someone might be making a profit off of it is BS! Bike sharing is a public transportation option that serves the needs of anyone needing to ride a bicycle a relatively short distance. You think this option simply shouldn’t exist because people shouldnt have the right to make a living managing and supporting such services. That is BS obstructionism; advocating making our cities less livable by offering people fewer options to get around. We need to be doing the opposite of that!

  • Ethan

    Angie, if “the 6-by-10-foot zones were selected because they won’t interfere
    with pedestrian access. All spaces are out of the way of buildings, bus
    stops, curb ramps, and loading zones”, then taking away parking spaces needlessly inconveniences a new group.

    I’m guessing you want to inconvenience drivers because you want people to stop driving their cars and you don’t want to concede there are parts of sidewalks so underused that they can be spared for bike shares which benefits the public.

  • Do Something Nice

    I never wrote what you said. I wrote that if bike sharing companies want to use existing street parking, they need to pay for it. Period.

  • Ethan

    How are delivery companies paying to use yellow curb space? That space is a public asset turned over to private companies.

  • Hugh Shepard

    How does putting the designated bike-parking lanes on the street instead of the sidewalk make a difference? It’s a good option on streets with narrow sidewalks that do not have adequate curb space for bike-parking zones, but other than that, I don’t see the advantage of putting these parking zones on the street.

  • Stuart

    Selling, leasing, and renting cars are all commercial endeavors, and heavily subsidized parking supports all of those things.

    How is accommodating a for-profit bike industry via free bike parking fundamentally different from supporting a for-profit car industry via free car parking? Do you also propose making it illegal to park a rental car in a free curbside parking space?

    If we can actually eliminate all free or heavily subsidized parking for cars too, then sure, let’s let the two for-profit industries compete on total cost of use/ownership. But if we’re going to mostly ignore the status quo of *massive* land give-aways that support the auto industry, it’s silly to suddenly draw the line in the sand when someone tries to do a tiny, tiny fraction of the same thing for bikes to even the playing field.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    I don’t believe there are any jurisdictions where all vehicles have the same rights and responsibilities. With parking spaces, there are usually size requirements on the vehicles that can use them – you’re not allowed to use a space if your vehicle is too much bigger or smaller than the vehicle the space is designed for (so no semis or motorcycles in ordinary spaces).

  • Vooch

    because people understand curbside storage of stuff

  • Vooch

    lawless ?

    you act as if that’s a bad thing

  • david reeves

    This article is inaccurate. Seattle is doing both – in some places, they’re in the cub lane, and in some places they’re on the sidewalk. The lane in the photo has no parking, is a heavily-trafficked corridor for buses.

  • James DB

    So… it’s a dock.

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