Dockless bike sharing companies may soon need to abide by San Francisco’s rules if they want to do business on the city’s streets, including a China-based company called Bluegogo, which has already deployed its bikes on city streets.
The proposed legislation from Supervisor Aaron Peskin would allow San Francisco Public Works to abate bicycles left unattended on The City’s sidewalks, streets or in the public right-of-way from dockless bike sharing companies who do not have a permit with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to operate in The City.
Peskin said at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee on Monday that this was first time The City was coming out in front of a new technology instead of waiting for later, when more companies like Bluegogo decide to do business in The City:
“Rather than asking for forgiveness or permission later, we figure that we should take the appropriate steps to regulate this industry in the best interest of the public.”
The committee moved Peskin’s proposed legislation to the full board of Supervisors for a vote on Tuesday.
The idea of a dockless bike station allows members to use an app to locate the bike and pay the rental fee before being given the code to unlock the bike. But what happens after the user completes their bike ride is what concerns city officials.
Unlike the Bay Area Bike Share program, there are no docks or a station to park the bike. Users may lock the bike anywhere, including blocking rights-of-way, which is what Peskin is afraid of happening in The City with no regulations in place:
“We also want to make sure this done in a way that does not become a nuisance on the sidewalks of San Francisco.”
Another component of regulating the dockless bike sharing companies will from the SFMTA.
Jamie Parks, transportation principal planner who oversees the SFMTA’s bike program, said the transit agency’s Board of Directors next Tuesday would take up the proposal of a permitting program and the conditions for receiving the permit for dockless bike share companies:
“We feel that these two pieces of legislation are really strong and make sure stationless bike sharing is regulated in a matter that is consistent with how we already treat station bike sharing and also in a manner that promotes public health and safety.”
The SFMTA proposed permit program will be available online sometime this week before it goes before the Board of Directors, said Parks.
He said the two principles that SFMTA staff wanted to see from dockless bike sharing companies is making the sure the bikes are available throughout The City and that membership fees are affordable for everyone who wants to use a bike.
Ilya Movshovich, vice president of U.S. operations for Bluegogo, said in email to SFBay that he agreed that rules should be set for this new form of bike sharing:
“We agree that there needs to be order, and clear regulations and applicable rules that all in this space need to follow, if they wish to run such a model.”
Movshovich said the company does plan to file for a permit with the SFMTA as soon as it becomes available.
Currently, Bluegogo is operating 200 bikes at 15 stations inside public parking spaces that are privately owned. Members can to rent from the 15 stations using the Bluegogo app and return the bike to any of the stations.
The company is also working with the San Francisco Planning Department in order to get the required permits so the company rent its bikes out of public and private spaces said Movshovich:
“Yes we have begun the process but are currently waiting to hear back from the city on additional materials required for submission.”
Janice Li, advocacy director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said while they are glad to see companies now trying to get more people riding bikes, the coalition had concerns about the company’s future plans in The City:
“We really want to make sure that biking creates access to affordable and sustainable transportation, not clutter our sidewalks that threatens safe passage on our sidewalks and other places.”
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. He covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent over a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a native in the city and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Email tips to [email protected]