Riding a bike or scooter around town might not sound controversial, but lately cities have a different perspective.
As the number of dockless bikes and scooters have ballooned, challenges have followed. Despite the many benefits of this emerging transportation option, negative sentiment has magnified its drawbacks. “Bike litter” permeates the media with images of cluttered masses of bikes on city sidewalks. The hashtag #ScootersBehavingBadly has the public weighing in as well. Even worse for dockless companies, some think the inevitable growing pains of dockless bikes and scooters shouldn’t be corrected, but rather regulated out of existence.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. Dockless companies can work with cities and the public to ensure they get a shot at success. Here’s how.
1. Directly address perceived drawbacks.
News about issues and challenges with dockless bikes and scooters has spread quickly. This has made municipal authorities wary about them becoming a nuisance. However, dockless companies can anticipate criticism and find ways to alleviate concerns in their markets.
The big players in the dockless space have taken steps to lessen their host cities’ fears. LimeBike patrols the streets to find bikes improperly parked and offer education for riders. Ofo’s app shows users the areas their city has deemed appropriate parking zones.
2. Work with cities toward fair regulations.
Dockless transportation options are facing more regulation at every turn. That trend could grow and become an economic and logistical hardship for both dockless companies and cities if it’s not handled properly.
Municipal leaders are exerting greater control over what happens on public streets and sidewalks, and dockless companies are reacting in turn. Chicago now requires all bike shares to have a “lock-to” or docked option, and ofo, one of the oldest and largest dockless bike platforms, ceased service in the city over the new regulations. Dallas recently voted to regulate dockless bikes by requiring a permit and stray bike pick up. San Francisco and other cities are also turning to regulation.
Dockless companies need to develop relationships with local leaders in host cities to make it clear any challenges can be successfully navigated by working together. For example, a major driver of the bike and scooter clutter problem is oversupply. To relieve these fears, dockless companies can partner with cities to share data and formulate plans for sustainable growth.
3. Communicate the value as a transportation solution.
City officials and public transportation proponents are not all convinced dockless bikes and scooters will work in the long run. Skeptics think dockless companies will go out of business because the model isn’t yet profitable. Leading ridesharing companies believe the opposite, with both Uber and Lyft recently investing in dockless projects.
Cities and dockless companies can find common goals if the value of dockless transportation is properly articulated. Almost all cities struggle with traffic issues and are looking for ways to reduce gridlock. Any affordable, reliable and flexible transportation options (including dockless) can be embraced by city leaders and the public with the right approach and communication.
Ultimately, dockless companies who take time to learn the transportation challenges, nuances and preferences of their host cities have the best chance at success.