Bike Blight is Now a “Thing” written by a Bike Accident Attorney.
Apparently we are all in a sharing mood these days, with ride-sharing, home sharing, clothes sharing, and bike sharing. No doubt you have seen lemon yellow bikes, lime green bikes or lemon-lime bikes scattered throughout the East Valley and Phoenix. Scottsdale alone has three bike sharing companies operating within its borders. I am a bike accident attorney and these new additions to downtown Mesa caught my eye from my fifth floor office so I decided to find out what they are all about.
The ofo (yes, that’s how they want it spelled so that it kind of looks like a rider on a bike) dockless bike sharing company began unloading its yellow bikes in various Mesa locations in February. The hopeful rider is required to download the ofo app, use it to find a bike, tap “unlock” in the app, scan the QR code on the GPS unit attached to the bike, and off you go, for only $1 an hour. When you’re done pedaling, you just leave the bike parked “safely and legally” spot, tap “lock,” and literally walk away. The bikes are dockless, so you do not have to return them to the same spot you unlocked it.
All of ofo’s bikes are equipped with GPS tracking devices, and the company employs an “analytics” team to find bikes in the field, which takes away the fun of playing hide-and-seek with them. The company also has drivers to pick up bikes left in inappropriate spots or low traffic areas.
From the ofo website:
Founded in 2014 and based in Beijing, China, ofo is the world’s first and largest station-free bike sharing platform. ofo is committed to providing the best short distance transportation solution, solving the “last mile” transportation problem by turning the last mile into a green, low-emission trip.
There is a catch, however. “Safely and legally” does not say where. Sometimes funny riders park the bikes in funny places, but sometimes discourteous riders also abandon them in not-so-funny places.
Because of complaints about where and how dockless bikes are being left, Valley cites are now moving to regulate bike-sharing. While there are no dockless bike rental companies officially operating in Phoenix, there are more than a few bikes being left in east Phoenix neighborhoods. Residents complained that the bikes were left on private property or piled on top of one another on street corners.
Consequently, Phoenix has now passed a policy to regulate the growing industry, including permit fees, a required user agreement for the bike companies, an annual per-bike fee and fines if the bikes are not properly parked, such as in the middle of a sidewalk or an entrance to a business. The Phoenix City Council also voted to require the bike sharing operators to install “lock to” technology on the bikes that would force riders to fasten the bikes to an immovable object, like a bike rack or street sign. Phoenix City councilmembers feel strongly that the locking requirement is the only way to make sure the bikes do not turn into blight.
Mesa has had the Gr:d (yes, that’s how they want it spelled) bike sharing system since 2016, which is a docking bike system. The Gr:d riders get a green bike from one of 20 designated racks and then return it to one of those racks when done, though the company gives its riders the option to lock up at a public bike rack for free.
Bike sharing companies hope that, as their users get better at using their bikes and understand where to leave them, everyone will be happy with their service and get used to the bikes parked “safely and legally.”
Remember, bike accidents can happen. Know and obey the traffic laws, and always bring along and wear a helmet. Your safety must always be the priority regardless of the color of the bike you’re riding.
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