Finally, about a year after hordes of multicolored bikes descended on the city, Dallas has definitive bike-share regulations. Electric scooters are coming to the city, too, after the City Council voted Wednesday to temporarily allow the stand-up two-wheelers.
Since the bikes showed up last fall, the five companies that own them — LimeBike, ofo, Spin, VBikes and MoBike — have been free to do what they wanted. They could drop off as many bikes as they wanted, wherever they wanted to in the city, without paying Dallas for using its right-of-way or giving the city any data about riders using the bikes.
In January, there were as many as 18,000 bikes in the city. That number's since dropped by about 50 percent, according to the companies. Now, the companies know how much they'll have to pay to keep their remaining bikes within the city limits.
Any company wishing to share its bike-share largesse with Dallas residents will have to fork over an $808 application fee to the city as well as a $21 per-bike fee. Additionally, the bike-share companies must pick up any bikes reported to 311 to be blocking sidewalks or fallen over within two hours if reported during the day and 12 hours if reported overnight.
The companies will also have to provide data about how often and where riders are using the bikes to the city four times per year.
Everett Weiler, the general manager of ofo Texas, said in a statement that Dallas' new fees are too high and will likely limit bike-share bikes to high-traffic central locations.
"We're fully supportive of smart regulations that promote innovation and protect consumer safety, and we’re certainly willing to pay our fair share to operate in Dallas," Weiler said. "However, these exorbitant fees would be among the highest in the country and severely limit residents’ access to affordable, convenient transportation as providers focus solely on the urban core where demand is highest, harming those in underserved areas who truly need more choice."
While the bike regulations, which have been the subject of months of debate, passed the council unanimously, the motorized scooters had a much tougher time winning their spot in the city. Dwaine Caraway, playing mayor for the day in Mike Rawlings' absence, led a group of council members hoping to delay a vote on the scooters.
"I believe we could have and should have all this. I just think we're not ready," Caraway said, urging the council to put off a vote until the city sees how the bike companies adapt to the new rules.
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The vote to delay the decision failed 7-7 before a compromise proffered by council member Jennifer Gates — letting the scooters operate in the city for a six-month trial period — passed 9-5. The scooters, which can travel up to 15 mph, are banned from sidewalks downtown, as well as any streets with speed limits above 35 miles per hour. They'll be picked up every night for charging, so they aren't subject to the time limits imposed on the bikes.
Bird, a scooter company that plans to deploy 500 of its vehicles in the city beginning of July, said it hopes to work out a long-term solution to keep the scooters in Dallas.
"We look forward to continuing to work with local leaders and providing all of Dallas' communities with a reliable, environmentally friendly way to help people get where they need to go while reducing traffic and carbon emissions," a Bird spokesperson said in an emailed statement.