Going Dockless: The Future of Bike Share

David “DK” Kemp has been putting people on bikes since 1997. Following an illustrative career as a bike shop salesman, DK moved on to conceptualize and implement the Tour de Fat event series with New Belgium Brewing from 2000-2004.  From 2006-2012, DK served as the Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Fort Collins and helped move the community from a silver to platinum level bicycle friendly community.   In 2012, DK moved to Davis, CA to become the city’s first Active Transportation Planner.  DK moved back to Colorado in late 2014 to serve as a Senior Transportation Planner for the City of Boulder where he now specializes in multimodal infrastructure design and programming and was instrumental in bringing dockless bike share to Boulder.   

What is Dockless Bike Share?

Dockless bike share is a start-up bike share system where people can rent bikes without having to check them in or out of an established docking facility, similar to today’s Boulder’s B-Cycle system. Bikes can be rented wherever they are found by using a smartphone app or digital screen located on the bike. After an individual is done riding a bike, they park it at their location and check it out to make the bike available to others.

The advent of dockless bike share technology has recently taken the U.S. by storm and the industry is very quickly evolving and changing each day.  Cities throughout the U.S. have scrambled, and in some cases, even struggled with how to regulate this fast paced industry.

While in theory, the concept of dockless bike share makes sense in order to provide people greater accessibility to bicycles; however, the ability for a bike to be parked in, or moved into, the public right of way without a managed approach presents significant issues in the way of safety for pedestrians and other cyclists.  Some dockless bikes can be parked and left anywhere, and that’s precisely the issue- they can be parked anywhere.

Dockless bike share technology can be separated into two fundamental categories:  “self-locking” and “lock-to.”  Self-locking technology enables the bike to lock only to itself before and after each use.  Lock-to technology incorporates an integrated locking mechanism that enables the bike to be locked to a fixed structure, such as a bike rack.

Bringing Dockless Bike Share to Boulder

In 2017, numerous dockless bike share operators hoping to conduct business in the city approached the City of Boulder.  Following an extensive research process and coordination with the National Association for City Transportation Officials (NACTO), the City of Boulder adopted an ordinance in June 2018 to regulate the industry in Boulder through a licensing program.  The ordinance requires all operators provide “lock-to” technology on their bicycles and the bicycles to be locked to a bike rack before and after each use.  To offset existing public bike parking, the ordinance also requires that one bike rack per bike deployed be provided.

This approach greatly avoids the potential safety issue associated with bikes parked freely in the public right of way while taking advantage of the benefits associated increased accessibility to bike share for community members. As is stands today, some operators are able to adhere to the City of Boulder’s regulations, while others are not.

In July 2018, NACTO released, “Guidelines for the Regulation and Management of Shared Active Transportation.”  This comprehensive guide provides information for agency officials who are exploring the merits and feasibility of dockless bike share in their community: https://nacto.org/home/shared-active-transportation-guidelines/

For more information on the City of Boulder’s program, please visit: https://bouldercolorado.gov/transportation/dockless-bike-share

Or, contact Dave “DK” Kemp, Senior Transportation Planner for the City of Boulder

dk@bouldercolorado.gov