If you've been downtown at all recently, you probably noticed people zipping around on motorized scooters. The Downtown Alliance and City of Austin's Active Transportation and Street Design Division led a virtual open house last Friday to discuss the challenges and opportunities of dockless mobility in the downtown environment. The open house was part of the City of Austin's effort to lead community conversations to develop a successful dockless pilot program. Just the night before the webinar, City Council passed an ordinance to offer licensing capabilities to dockless mobility companies and beef up enforcement against companies operating without a license.
Guests from Dallas and Seattle discussed the challenges and opportunities that have come from recent dockless bike pilot programs in their respective cities:
Dustin Bullard, vice president of public space and design at Downtown Dallas, Inc.
Jared White, bicycle transportation manager with the City of Dallas
Blake Sundstrom, lead safety supervisor at the Downtown Seattle Association
Patrick Green, transportation specialist, Commute Seattle
Both cities determined that dockless mobility is a great last mile solution that can expand quickly with little public cost. Particularly with purposeful expansion to underserved areas without many mobility options. Both cities noted that the bikes were heavily used by tourists, young people, and employees commuting to work.
Experts from Seattle and Dallas expressed that orderly bike parking was one of the biggest challenges of their pilot programs. Bikes are often parked in the public right-of-way, making it difficult for pedestrians to navigate around. ADA compliance is another major concern. Vandalizing bikes, taking the locks off and taking a bike as ones own, or leaving bikes in environmentally sensitive areas are other issues Dallas and Seattle have both experienced.
Both cities provided recommendations as to how to move forward with a successful pilot program, and noted changes they would make if they were to start over. Suggestions included:
- Update 311 structure to track complaints
- Implement strict parking regulations, and have a realistic but quick time frame for the dockless mobility provider to address violations. Additionally, ensure providers have enough staff locally to address concerns and improperly parked bikes in a timely manner
- Create bike parking zones on the sidewalk that still allow for ADA compliance and pedestrians to pass
- Create regulations such as a cap on the number of bikes in a square mile to ensure providers are distributing bikes to all neighborhoods
- Collect data to find popular routes and demographics of users for bike infrastructure planning purposes
- Collaborate with staff from the Watershed Protection Department and Parks and Recreation Department to ensure protection of environmentally-sensitive areas
Special thanks to our guests for taking time to provide insights on this important mobility initiative.