May 10, 2018
A pilot program on the South Side aims to expand beyond the reach of the city’s docked system. But will lock-to requirements and other regulations allow for enough bikes to be useful?
Last week, Chicago let dockless bikesharing companies into the city. But in an effort to head off the dockless “nuisance” debate that has led to a backlash in other cities, it’s put the wanderlusty bikes on a pretty short leash. The small pilot, which runs from May to November, is limited to the city’s South Side, and riders can’t just abandon their ride wherever they want. To cut down on bike clutter, the city is trying something new: requiring dockless bikes to be locked to racks or street signs when not in use.
It’s a cautious trial influenced by the dockless dialogue in other cities, including a lot of hand wringing about right-of-way usage—from “bike litter” in Dallas, the scooter-scolding of San Francisco, and the creative parking shaming in Seattle. The city’s permit announcement lets on about its anxieties about sidewalk clutter:
In our conversations with stakeholders including local residents, advocates, and in speaking with other cities that have implemented or are considering similar dockless bike-share pilot programs, right-of-way usage was raised as a serious issue to consider. The lock-to requirement, along with other requirements in the permit, establish a baseline standard that will help address right-of-way usage issues that may arise, for example, if a stray bike left in the right-of-way.