As Miami’s dockless bike-share programs continue to grow in both size and popularity, Miami-Dade lawmakers are aiming to more tightly regulate the industry in an effort to clamp down on bad behavior like blocking sidewalks.
County commissioners voted in favor of three such measures on Tuesday, reported Miami New Times. The resolutions call for increased enforcement—including $100 fines for obstructing the public right of way—as well as new studies to explore regulatory options.
Unlike Citibikes, which requires riders to return to a locking station after each trip, dockless operators like as Lime and Ofo allow users to pick up and drop off their bikes essentially anywhere. Unused bikes are tracked-down and electronically activated using an app.
While the flexibility afforded by a lack of fixed stations is arguably dockless bike share’s biggest advantage, it is also the source of much anxiety. The struggle to keep stray bikes from crowding the public way and blocking key infrastructure like accessibility ramps is an ongoing challenge and not unique to South Florida.
So-called “dockless fails” showing bikes piled in the sidewalks, lodged in trees, and dunked in the ocean have been well-documented on social media.
It’s still unclear what kind of regulations Miami lawmakers will ultimately pursue. Some cities have capped the number of bikes per operator while others have mandated “lock-to” mechanisms to secure bikes to objects like trees and light posts. One possible “solution” setting aside designated parking areas would, in effect, defeat the whole purpose of a dockless system, noted Miami New Times author Brittany Shammas.
Miami-Dade’s latest move to crack down on rogue dockless bikes isn’t the only recent iniative by local officials to reign in personal mobility companies. Last month, attorneys with the City of Miami issued cease and desist letters that cited violations in state laws and safety concerns to scooter-share operators. The move prompted companies Lime and Bird to pull their scooters—at least temporarily—from the Miami market. Similar regulatory battles over scooter programs are taking place in San Francisco and Santa Monica, California.
With Miami’s automobile congestion as bad as ever, it’s little surprise that alternatives like dockless bikes are taking off. LimeBike, the city’s first such operator, launched in Key Biscayne in June of 2017 and expanded to areas including Wynwood, Kendall, Brickell, and Downtown Miami. Lime surpassed 100,000 rides in May and was joined by other companies including Ofo and Spin.
The nation’s bike and scooter-share scene has quickly evolved into a fast growing and increasingly lucrative business. The industry’s recent success has even prompted transportation giants Uber and Lyft to acquire existing companies in an effort to join the competitive fray.