Washington, D.C., is starting to look like the capital not only of the country but of “dockless” mobile transportation. Suddenly, bikes and adult scooters of all colors and sizes, some with quiet electric motors (and others not), can be seen everywhere.
According to the more than half a dozen bike-share and scooter companies in D.C., some 120,000 riders have collectively taken more than 300,000 rides on their vehicles since last September. In addition, the D.C. government has bought and maintains some 4,000 red-and-yellow Capital Bikeshare bikes, parked at bike stations throughout the city.
The initial six-month contracts of the original five deckles bike companies, set to end in April, were extended by the city through August. This month, the District Department of Transportation is conducting a survey to get a better understanding of how the program fits with the existing bike-share system and to fill in the profile of current dockless bike-share users. The survey, open to riders and non-riders, is available at dot.dc.gov/page/dockless-vehicles-district until June 1.
Perhaps the biggest issues with the program are the danger and annoyance resulting from the growing number of inappropriately parked bikes and scooters. They can be found in the middle of a sidewalk or a curb cut — even in curbside tree boxes. Volunteers at the Rock Creek Conservancy’s cleanup event encountered abandoned dockless bikes and scooters in Rock Creek waterways this year.
The public is asked to call 311 — not 911 — when finding an abandoned bike or scooter blocking a path or driveway. Meanwhile, city and bike companies are searching for the best solutions to stop the sloppy and dangerous practice, including fines, permits, impounding, service denials and a posted set of principles, according to David Alpert, executive director of DC Sustainable Transportation.
In the meantime, DDOT will be analyzing the expected summer surge in ridership to decide whether future programs should be expanded, capped or reduced.