DOCKLESS BIKE SHARING:
A Great Leap But An Uncertain Landing
In barely five years, dockless bike sharing systems have gone from exciting idea to world-phenomena. There are over 70 firms that have placed somewhere between 10 and 25 million “park anywhere” bikes in several hundred cities with over a hundred-million users. China is the epicenter of this modal tsunami but the industry is rapidly expanding around the globe, including explosively in the USA.
The hope is that these systems, like the Hubway-style dock-station services that preceded them, will massively increase bike usage – reducing future increases in car congestion, improving air quality and public health, helping promote local businesses. The hope is that their low cost, ubiquity, and flexibility will make expansion easy and solve the geographic inequities of the dock-station-based approach. The Hubway model has proven to be not viable in the suburbs: boosters claim that the much-lower entry cost of dockless systems (cheaper for the vendor, no upfront investment for the municipality) will lead to their presence in a broader set of communities and help create a critical mass of voters pushing for improved cycling infrastructure, better traffic speed enforcement, and kid’s programs.
Look down the street. It’s not just cars, trucks, buses, bikes, and pedestrians. There is a whole spectrum of new two and three wheeled things on the roll – stand-up scooters, in-line skates, skate boards both manual and motorized, Segways, “personal assistant mobility devices”, electric-assist pedal bikes, motorized cargo bikes and pedicabs, mopeds, mini-motorcycles, “smart wheels” that fit onto regular bikes, exploding hoverboards, and other things joining the motor scooters and motorcycles already there. And next year there will be even more as several industry sectors – bicycle, moped, and scooter manufacturers in particular – gear up to serve the growing market of bike-interested but less-physically fit adults and aging boomers.Read more